Monday, September 5, 2022

Fact Checker Attempts to Debunk Link Between Defunding Police and Rising Crime, Fails Miserably

Fact Checker Attempts to Debunk Link Between Defunding Police and Rising Crime, Fails Miserably

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In the latest edition of "fact checkers vs. reality," USA Today’s Daniel Funke turned criminologist and casted doubt on the obvious link between the "defund the police" movement and rising crime.

Funke's supposed "fact check" is specifically responding to a social media post that stated “twelve major cities broke homicide records this year. They are ALL led by Democrat Mayors. That is what happens when you defund the police.”

Funke acknowledges that “Between 2019 and 2020, the U.S. recorded its highest increase in the national homicide rate in modern history. And in 2021, 12 cities did break their annual homicide records,” while glossing over that it’s also true that those 12 cities have Democrat mayors. The only point that Funke refutes is that not all 12 cities defunded the police, which he then uses to justify titling his article “No evidence defunding police to blame for homicide increases.”

While the homicide rate rose nearly 30% in 2020, the largest year-over-year increase since at least 1905, the gain was even more pronounced in many of the major cities that defunded police, including Portland, which saw a 530% increase in their murder rate, Austin (74% increase), New York (56%), and Chicago’s (54%). While Funke's "fact check" is specific to police defunding, there are cities that didn't defund the police but had their police departments criplled by so-called "progressive prosecutors," which was another major factor in the national crime wave we're experiencing.  

Further destroying what was left of his credibility (which wasn't much, admittedly), Funke also calls into question whether police help that much at all in reducing crime.

He quotes one criminologist at the University of California-Irvine who told him that she’s not aware of any data that illustrates the effect of reducing the police on homicide rates, and that older research suggests there isn’t a definitive conclusion. Of course, that police reduce crime is just about the most replicated finding in the field of criminology.

To quote a brief summary of the existing literature:
  • In a 2005 paper, Jonathan Glick and Alex Tabarrok found a clever instrument to measure the effects of officer increases through the terrorism “alert levels” that were a feature of the early to mid-aughts. During high-alert periods, the Washington, DC, police force would mobilize extra officers, especially in and around the capital’s core, centered on the National Mall. Using daily crime data, they found that the level of crime decreased significantly on high-alert days, and the decrease was especially concentrated on the National Mall.
  • Stephen Mello of Princeton University assessed the Obama-era increase in federal police funding. Thanks to the stimulus bill, funding for Clinton’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) hiring grant program surged from about $20 million a year in the late-Bush era to $1 billion in 2009. The program design allowed Mello to assess some quasi-random variation in which cities got grants. The data shows that compared to cities that missed out, those that made the cut ended up with police staffing levels that were 3.2 percent higher and crime levels that were 3.5 percent lower. This is an important finding because not only does it show that more police officers leads to less crime, but that actual American cities are not currently policed at a level where there are diminishing returns.
  • A larger historical survey by Aaron Chalfin and Justin McCrary looked at a large set of police and crime data for midsize to large cities from 1960 to 2010 and concluded that every $1 spent on extra policing generates about $1.63 in social benefits, primarily through fewer murders.
Contrary to the sort-of "police state" rhetoric the left will often deploy, even before the "defund the police" trend, the U.S. employed 35% fewer police per-capita than the world average. In 2018 the U.S. employed 238 cops per 100,000 people, while France employed 429 per 100k, Italy 456 per 100k, Russia 515 per 100k, and Germany 388 per 100k.

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