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home : opinions : opinions February 06, 2016

6/12/2012 10:02:00 PM
Editorial: Police jobs save more money than they cost
The Daily Courier

This past Sunday we told you about the hope that is visible in this country's economic recovery, evidenced by changes in the housing market. Revisiting the topic of our economic engine's health, we point to jobs, their cost and the benefits.

It is common to hear about people today who are either unemployed or underemployed. The latter is when someone who has a college degree is working in a $7.50 per hour retail job, for example, because that is the only employment they can find.

Further, as with the City of Prescott's and the Prescott school district's budget discussions this past winter and spring, talk of cutbacks in the form of personnel is always a serious concern.

But let's examine what the opposite can do, according to a Rand Corporation study. Adding just one police officer can save as much as four times the cost of the officer's compensation. In fact, Rand's cost-of-crime calculator shows that even in places where the per capita cost of crime is less than $1,000, the "savings" from adding just one police officer tops $100,000.

Of course this is an academic exercise. Adding police officers immediately increases the payroll, but the "savings" from lowered crime costs - though we would like it - does not show up in the form of checks from criminals.

Measuring the cost of crime is more subjective, factoring in such intangibles as an increase in "general fear" and diminishing quality of life. Other costs are easier to measure and include lost property and the price of prosecution and incarceration.

Knowing, however, that the price of one salaried position can deliver unintended benefits, we must acknowledge that this theory extends to other industries, such as teaching. The loss of one great teacher impacts more than the bottom line (think students).

With that in mind, we must all factor in the cost of training and the learning curve for new recruits.

In the end, the benefits of putting people back to work is not always about "spending money to make money," but spending money to save money.

And, for policing, the cost of one officer could reap volumes economically if that officer's job was foot patrol downtown or in the nearby Granite Creek Park. It makes more than "cents."

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Reader Comments

Posted: Sunday, June 17, 2012
Article comment by: TO: @ What's the alternative

Then I'd say your beef is with the law MAKERS not the law ENFORCERS. There is a difference.

This discussion was about law ENFORCERS. Until you can convince your law MAKERS to change the laws, you're off base to criticize the law enforcers who are only trying to do their job.

And for what's it worth, I completely stand by the lucid comment. If the shoe fits...

Posted: Saturday, June 16, 2012
Article comment by: @ What's the alternative

The alternative to laws that do only harm is the absence of such laws. The alternative to police who wage war against society is police who don't. And the alternative to accusing anyone you disagree with of not being "lucid" is a rational response presenting your side of the debate. But you don't have one, do you?

Posted: Saturday, June 16, 2012
Article comment by: What's Your Alternative?

Rita, I might agree with you if you were right...or even lucid.

Posted: Saturday, June 16, 2012
Article comment by: Demi Krat

Anyone who believes we use police officers to generate revenue is simply an ignorant fool.

Posted: Friday, June 15, 2012
Article comment by: Alf landon

If we need a policeman in the park, we could take one away from writing traffic tickets.

Oh, no! That would cut revenue.

It's all about allocation of resources. We can use policemen to reduce crime or we can use them to produce revenue.

Posted: Friday, June 15, 2012
Article comment by: Rita Stricker

@ What's the alternative? Unlike some people, I never post anonymously, so it should be easy for you to cite where I've ever said that we should eliminate police. In fact, I'm pretty sure that I said that the cost of enforcing laws that protect people is money well spent. Intervening in domestic violence, arresting a rapist, stopping a drunk driver actually protect the public. Enforcing laws against victimless activities does not. And pretending that the over-the-top violence of drug raids, using military weapons and tactics and treating suspects as enemy combatants is meant to keep us safe or save money is absurd bordering on insane.

Posted: Friday, June 15, 2012
Article comment by: What's Your Alternative?

So is the alternative to NOT have police officers in society??

I'd love to hear Rita Stricker, and those of her ilk, propose exaclty how we would protect the public without police officers.

Posted: Thursday, June 14, 2012
Article comment by: Dear Editor

The comparison between the cost of law enforcement and the cost of crime is based on the assumption that law enforcement prevents or deters crime. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Posted: Thursday, June 14, 2012
Article comment by: @ gary bergamini

i do not agree with a thing you said, but i respect your courage to attach your name to it.

Posted: Thursday, June 14, 2012
Article comment by: John Rollo

This is how the Government plans to bring us to our knees by supporting a millitaristic view of the new Amerika. Between Drones in the air and a strong well equipped Para-military force policing the neighborhoods that is the vision our representatives have for our future. We are already brain washed to believe having our prisons full and executions meted out regularly is something to be proud of. Our way of life is doomed soon enough with the enthusiasim and support for greater law enforcement. It's sad to think our citizens think more of locking people up compared to educating them. Wake up people before you're wearing pink.

Posted: Thursday, June 14, 2012
Article comment by: Rita Stricker

Law enforcement does not save money. Law enforcement costs. And costs. When the laws being enforced actually protect the public, it's considered money well spent. However, there is no rational way to pretend that enforcing laws against victimless activities protect anyone.

Posted: Thursday, June 14, 2012
Article comment by: Really? Come on!

I get it now, More officers, stimulate the economy as well as help fill the private prisons so the investors can get the profit. Wow smart!

Posted: Thursday, June 14, 2012
Article comment by: Common Senzi

Based on that logic we should hire thousands for prescott and have them drive up and down the streets in suv's all day.

Posted: Thursday, June 14, 2012
Article comment by: Whatta Joke

What about the increased cost of incarcerating more poeple. We have more people in jail than Iran and China combined. I think we need fewer police, and fewer people in jail. Jail only turns people into worse criminals, which in turn costs more money. I call your bluff!!!!

Posted: Thursday, June 14, 2012
Article comment by: Gary Bergamini

I have lived in Prescott for nearly forty years , My question is -- Why raise the pay for A bunch of bullies that feel they can treat citizans like dirt ?
Each generation of police in Prescott seems to hand down the " Bully " torch to the next . The real shame is that once A Prescott police (officer) says anything , A Prescott dictator judge does'nt hear anyone else .
I think rather than raises , The City of Prescott should keep LOWERING the police pay until all of the hodlums with badges move on !

Posted: Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Article comment by: @ Drones over Prescott


Posted: Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Article comment by: Tom Von Deck

If you pay the cops less, they might just start showing more solidarity with poor people. Not advocating lower pay, but that just might be how it goes down.

Posted: Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Article comment by: Ghost of the Real Prescott Patriot

Rand Corp......Are you kidding me!!!???!!!

Posted: Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Article comment by: Liberals Ride The Short Bus

So let me get this straight: In other words, if I were to lose my job, I should raise my kids' allowances in order to save money?? Wow!

How 'bout this instead: As populations decrease (as is happening here in our area), so should the government workforce, in an equal proportion. That's what's done in the private sector (less customers means smaller workforce needed). Why is that so difficult to understand?

Posted: Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Article comment by: Just Saying

The only ones I dislike more than police are criminals. Oh wait, let me be more specific, the bullying cops that are criminalistic.

Posted: Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Article comment by: Mr Maverick

The author of this 'Editorial' selectively quoted a snipet from the original report easily found on the net. He left out this, "Humorously, though, even Statesman commenters (a normally credulous lot when it comes to police department PR) nearly universally saw through this argument. Quipped one wag, "Why not just keep going. Let's reduce the unemployment in this town and hire 25,000 cops and save hundreds of millions of dollars and REBATE that money back to the taxpayers. Then the economy here will really take off!" From another: "According to this Alice in Wonderland logic, if we hired 400 more officers, crime would disappear."

Posted: Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Article comment by: Right goal wrong reason

1. I'm all for adding more police.
2. That they will increase city revenue is nonsense.
Add them because (particularly the downtown area - Including Grantite Creek Park) isn't as safe as it should be.
Better yet, figure out a way to close down about 3/4 of the local rehab/dry out/sober living centers. That would do the most to reduce crime.

Posted: Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Article comment by: Don'tforgetthe. INNNNsurance

I'm surprised the editorial didn't use insurance rates as an example of how a safe community saves money. Auto and homeowners' insurance rates vary widely between safe and less safe communities. Even changing zip codes can affect rates. I experienced this a few months ago when I moved from an apartment (with a garage) to a single family home a few miles away and saw my auto insurance rate drop by about 5%.

Posted: Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Article comment by: Native 'zonan

I'm not buying it. The premise of this argument is that if a police officer stops a crime, say vandalism, then the officer has recouped the town the potential damage costs of that act.

Just a few problems with that premise:

1) Though the crime was stopped, the criminal imposes additional costs at that point, often of more than the actual crime committed thanks to our court system (which also requires facilities and employees to process the punishment) and our penal system (ditto) which the police then introduce them to.

2) The crime was stopped for the time being, but even after a court process and a penalty, we all know recidivism rates mean the criminal himself was not stopped.

3) How do we account for "no cost" crimes?

4) The cost of a crime is imposed on the taxpayer if police get involved, while the savings go through to the individual.

5) If we accept this logic as reason to hire more police, then the focus then becomes on creating/ticketing crimes which target people who are able to pay (we all know perpetuators of "street crime" don't have the money or wherewithal to compensate the victims or the community).

Am I saying we shouldn't stop criminals via police work? No. But I am saying the argument that police pay for themselves if you factor in savings probably falls apart because the premise is flawed. Police are a necessary burden... and to call it anything else is disengenuous.

We will continue to "need" more and more police the more the criminal justice system is a revolving door process for the criminals. Until we figure out a way to make people not commit crime in the first place, it's a burden on the system any way you cut it and no matter how many police we hire.

Posted: Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Article comment by: Drones over Prescott

If it is Ok for everyone else to work for 7.50 and hour then that is what we should be paying the Prescott police, they should just be happy to have jobs.

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