When the subject is how large a police force is needed in Phoenix, or in any major city for that matter, one thing is certain: some groups will consistently tell you that more cops are needed to protect the lives and the property of the citizens. They will tell you this regardless of the crime rate, crime trends, or any other facts.
Given the current debate over the issue, we thought it might be helpful to analyze the situation, including a picture of the city’s recent crime history, with a view toward gaining a better fact-based understanding of the issue.
Phoenix Crime Over the Past Decades
If you look back over the last 30 years, the crime rates in Phoenix have generally been on the decline. We’re talking about property crime (burglary, larceny, and auto theft) and violent crime (murder, rape, robbery, assault). Of course, there are ups and downs from year to year in specific categories, but by and large, the crime statistics will tell you that the city is safer today that it was decades ago. If that’s the case, you might wonder why the push for more police officers.
The Hiring Freeze
The city is currently coming off a 7-year hiring freeze that ended in 2015, and the department is well on its way to reaching its goal of 3,125 officers by next year. Nevertheless, the law and order types are telling us that we need even more cops than that.
Their argument, while it contains ominous warnings about our safety, really has nothing to do with crime in Phoenix. Rather, they tell us that our city needs to be at or near the pinnacle of the “officer-to-population ratio” of the major U.S. cities. In that regard, New York City and Philadelphia lead the pack, with ratios of over 4 officers per 1,000 residents. When you discount those two cities (their ratios are off the chart compared with the other big cities), Phoenix is near the middle of the pack, at 1.78 officers per 1,000 residents.
We question using the population statistics of other cities to gauge whether the numbers in Phoenix make sense. Population density, geography, and a host of other factors will affect the number of officers necessary in a given area. When we make decisions based not on the trends in the crime rates, but rather on other factors, we run the risk of catering to an underlying political agenda, and not basing the decisions on actual need.
The Feldman Law Firm PLLC
1 E. Washington Street
Phoenix, AZ 85004