Public safety is a large, necessary and popular expenditure by most every level of government, but in the past 20 years, the cost of maintaining safety has increased by about 300%. This increase has happened despite 20 years of declining crime rates. Interestingly, in Indiana per capita police numbers have been lower than the national average. Yet, crime numbers are down. Regarding public safety and crime numbers, the big question involves the relationship between the two, especially in Indiana.
When it comes to successfully reducing the crime rate, there are plenty of surprises. Many might assume that increased incarceration and mandatory sentencing would reduce the number of crimes committed, but this is far from the truth. Since the 1990s when mandatory sentencing was put into place, the crime rate hasn’t seen much change. But, the United States is currently the leader in incarceration, with at least four times more adults in prison than any other country in the world. Yet, the crime rate is in the middle of pack. Mandatory sentencing, private prisons, and the immense number of people spending time in jail is not reducing recidivism.
What does seem to reduce crime rates is local control. By using community policing and by decentralizing policing, communities are seeing a drop in crime. Another technique that reduces crime is investment in communities. When businesses invest in communities through Business Improvement Districts, crime rates also fall. By investing in communities that are suffering from poverty and segregation, businesses help cover the expenses of community and civilian policing and public safety increases.
The crime rate is not affected by the number of police with college degrees or the number of police who receive pay raises. It is not affected by removing the requirement for job applicants to state whether they have been incarcerated or convicted of a crime. The rate does not drop when police departments are consolidated.
Several studies have been conducted on these numbers and the statistics speak volumes. If communities want to have less crime, they should police their communities at the local level. They also must have businesses show that they care about neighborhoods by investing in them.