To shrink incarceration, just add more policeI recently read a terrific article in the New York Times that highlights a connection between lower incarceration rates and more police.
By: Gordon Ramsay, for the Budgeteer News
I recently read a terrific article in the New York Times that highlights a connection between lower incarceration rates and more police.
Yes that’s correct, with more police they found a connection to a decrease in the jail and prison population. The article was printed Jan. 25 and headlined, “Prison Population Can Shrink When Police Crowd Streets.”
The focus of the article was New York City and how its crime rate has dropped more than 75 percent since the early 1990s, and the incarceration rate has dropped to well below the national average. The premise is that more police on the street prevent and reduce crime and disorder.
I think we can all agree with that one; however the article brings up an ironic twist. The U.S. spends way more on incarceration than on police. According to the article, local policing accounted for more than 40 percent of spending for criminal justice, while
25 percent went to prisons and parole programs in the 1980s. But since 1990, nearly 35 percent has gone to the prison system, while the amount for policing has declined to just over 30 percent.
American criminologist Lawrence Sherman is on the faculty of the University of Maryland and also Cambridge University in Britain. Sherman was quoted in the NY Times article as saying “The United States today is the only country I know of that spends more on prisons than police. In England and Wales, the spending on police is twice as high as on corrections. In Australia it’s more than three times higher. In Japan it’s seven times higher. Only in the United States is it lower, and only in our recent history.”
The amount budgeted for police is of particular interest to me because of our efforts to improve the perception of safety downtown. During my lifetime I have witnessed the decline of downtown and over the last decade have watched its rebirth. There has been tremendous growth in the night-
life downtown over the last couple of years.
The streets are no longer filled with just the maintenance staff cleaning the buildings after 8 p.m., but are now filled with folks enjoying many of the new establishments. It is great to see and, as police chief, I want to assure you that we are doing everything possible to support and encourage the economic vitality of the heart of our City.
Downtown safety has been a priority for Mayor Ness and the police
department. We are diligently working on improving the perception of safety downtown on many fronts.
I say improving the perception of crime and safety downtown, because considering the tens of thousands of people who work downtown, the crime rate is relatively low. Assaults and serious incidents are almost always between people who know each other — and all too often people our officers know on a first-name basis.
Nonetheless, the feeling of crime and disorder is perpetuated by the loitering, panhandling, and disorderly and drunken behavior by the same people. We will be asking for the assistance of key stakeholders in coming weeks to help us bring an end to the chronic troublemakers downtown. It can be done, but not without collaboration.
While we have more police officers working downtown than in any time in the last 30-plus years, we could use more. I would like to add additional foot- and bike beats downtown to keep the momentum heading in the right direction.
We hope that someone at the state and federal levels will pay attention to the findings in New York City, and increase the funding for police. In the meantime, we will continue to work with and collaborate with our community partners in an effort to increase the perception of safety downtown.
Lastly, I need to update you on our efforts to deal with the Last Place on Earth. Our two-pronged approach involved a civil suit seeking a remedy to the problems associated with the business and its impact on the neighborhood. For now, the business is required to pay for two police officers to be present in the area, and address the crime and disorder issues one hour prior to the business opening until one hour after closing, at a cost of over $30,000 a month.
On another front, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has filed 54 criminal charges against the owner of the business and several employees. Along with impacted area businesses and families of those whose lives who have been ruined by the drugs sold in this business, I am hoping for long prison sentences at the conclusion of the trial. The trial is scheduled for later this year.
Contact Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay at 730-5020 or firstname.lastname@example.org.