Skip to navigation

Delving Deeper into Police Budgets and Public Safety

Brian J Smith April 14, 2015

Las Vegas scored poorly on a recent report on police spending ROI. However, the issue of safer communities is not so easily simplified.

Is Las Vegas Getting its Money’s Worth with Police?

Wallet Hub recently released their return on investment rankings for police spending in the 110 largest cities in the United States. Las Vegas came in at number 77, with 1 being the best and 110 the worst. The final score was adjusted for poverty, unemployment and median income. Prior to adjustment, Vegas fared better than average landing in the 51st spot. Spending per capita good enough for 41st place at $329, but the fourth worst crime rate hurt the overall score substantially. This less than stellar report raises a couple of questions for residents of sin city.

Implications of the Low Ranking

Simply comparing crime rate to the amount of money allocated to the police department in a given year is not a good indicator of how effectively the money is being spent. Police department budgets in most areas are public record. The total amount is less important than the programs and methods implemented by the department. For instance, fighting the underlying causes of crime, such as poverty and addiction, can have a greater long-term effect on the crime rate than reactive policing. Solving crime more effectively assures more criminals are punished but does little to prevent future crimes from being committed. Checking the police department’s website along with public records is a good way to see exactly how your tax dollars are being spent.

Methods and Programs that Have an Effect on Public Safety

The effectiveness of particular police programs depends largely on the desired goal. If public safety is the overriding concern, increasing traffic law enforcement can have a noticeable impact. To be effective all around, community involvement is critical. When officers maintain close ties with the community, they serve both preventing and solving crime is simplified. Citizens who feel comfortable interacting with the police are more likely to report crimes and aid in investigations as well. Officers who are familiar with the community are more likely to notice suspicious activity and understand how best to focus their efforts.

A High Crime Rate Does not necessarily Mean Ineffective Policing

Crime rate is based only on the number of official crime reports. This does not take into account crimes that are never reported to police for whatever reason, nor does it factor in disputes that are settled without the officer filing a report. Should you ever find yourself on the wrong side of an encounter with police, the first call should be to a Las Vegas criminal defense attorney.