Study: Less police presence tied to increase in crime

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A 2021 study suggests defunding police departments could hurt more than help. 

Sarit Weisburd, assistant professor at Tel Aviv University in Israel, has conducted numerous studies on the impact of police deterrence in the United States.

In May 2021, she published a study called, “Police Presence, Rapid Response Rates, and Crime Prevention,” which found a 10% decrease in police presence results in a 7% increase in crime.

“From my research, I do find that officer presence is important for creating deterrence,” she said. “It just really creates this complicated problem where, on the one hand, you want officers in different locations to create deterrence.”

“On the other hand, you want a fairly even spread over the city for response times, because an emergency can happen anywhere, even if you, you know, believe in the idea of hot spots policing, on focusing patrol officers in certain areas, you may still want officers spread very thinly in order to respond quickly to 911 calls.”

Rather than defunding the police, Weisburd said she suggests Kansas Citians work with law enforcement to determine which services to prioritize most in its budget.

She said she believes this could improve relations between the public and law enforcement, helping to reestablish trust in a profession where public scrutiny is high and morale has been low. 

“To be clear, it’s not that I don’t understand or I don’t agree with the factors that drove people to the defund-the-police movement,” Weisburd said. “I just am not sure that defunding the police is going to make police forces better.”

“I think the key issue for these people who are supporting defunding the police is that they just don’t have faith that the police departments can get better. They kind of look at it as, ‘The money goes in, and these guys do whatever they want, and they don’t serve my community as I would.’ For me, if I was going to have a message for people of this movement.”

“I would say, ‘What about thinking of what needs to change within the police to improve this interaction?’”

In early October, a Jackson County judge ruled in favor of the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners after the city moved more than $42 million from the Kansas City Police Department’s budget.

The judge ruled the funding reallocation measure, which aimed to strip $21 million from patrol divisions in the city’s highest violent crime areas, violated a state law that gives the police board “exclusive management and control” of the department and its budget. 

In late June, speakers at a town hall event in the Northland said reallocating funds from the budget would worsen police response times, something residents say is already a challenge for officers in their area.

Police Chief Rick Smith previously told FOX4 the department is struggling to manage 9-1-1 calls due to staffing shortages. He said in order to retain and recruit more officers, the department needs to maintain its resources. 

In order for law enforcement to provide the services the public wants, law enforcement needs financial resources to recruit and retain its officers, Weisburd said.

“In the current phase of policing, where the concern is that officers aren’t even able to get up to the emergency calls quickly – at least in the article I read about Kansas City was that your number of officers is being cut down to the same number you had in the 90s – I could guess that that’s something citizens need to understand,” Weisburd said.

“They might say, ‘You know what? I want my budget used on other places and I’m willing to have these wait times and I’ll accept that,’ and, ‘That would be okay.’ 

“I think you’d have to trust the police department or push the police department to prioritize really important things, and I guess, to me, responding to an incident that already occurred – that wasn’t violent – would be bottom of the list. I guess that’s really my concern with defunding the police. I think that, while it was brought about in an effort to try to create more positive interactions with police, to get rid of negative interactions, I’m very concerned that it could do the opposite”

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