Can simply adding more police officers to the streets, or changing how they operate, reduce the crime rate? A report from the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, “What Caused the Crime Decline?” provides some answers. First, increasing the number of police officers can reduce crime by about 5 to 10%. Police employment increased dramatically in the 1990s, rising 28%.
A major contributor was the 1994 crime bill, which provided funding for 100,000 new local officers. The city of Fayetteville added nearly 50 additional officers to the force during retired Chief Harold Medlock’s administration, bringing the number of sworn officers to 433. The increase resulted in a three-cent increase in the property tax rate.
Police techniques can also be effective in reducing crime. Interestingly, the biggest impact has come from something that gets a lot less ink than controversial measures, such as stop-and-frisk or the use of military equipment — the digital revolution. During the 1990s, police forces began using computers to target their efforts. The technique is known as CompStat. Part management tool, part geographical data-driven analysis, CompStat originally was little more than sticking pins in a map on the wall, looking for crime patterns. But it worked. Former New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton implemented it full-scale in 1994. It then spread to many cities around the country, including Fayetteville.
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