In 2016, there were slightly more officers per capita than in 1991, when violent crime peaked. Officers today deal with half the crimes per capita that they did then, but they handle offenses not reflected in FBI data, such as terrorism, cybercrime, and identity theft.
A lower national crime rate has not resulted in fewer police officers, the New York Times reports. In 2016, there were slightly more officers per capita than in 1991, when violent crime peaked, according to FBI data. Officers today deal with half the crimes per capita that they did then. Hardly anyone questions the size of police forces. The relationship between the number of officers and lawful behavior is not clear-cut. In New York City, the police force peaked at more than 40,000 in 2000. Since then, both the number of officers and the crime rate have declined. In Chicago, notorious for violence and shootings, there are 44 officers for each 10,000 residents. That is almost the same ratio as New York. Though crime in Chicago declined in 2017, says the Brennan Center for Justice, the crime rate there was still far higher than in New York, which recorded its lowest crime rate since the 1950s.
Philadelphia also has about the same number of officers per capita; homicides there topped 300 for the first time in five years, but violent crime in general went down. The large U.S. city with the highest murder rate is Baltimore, which has 41 officers for each 10,000 residents. St. Louis, where murders hit a record high, has 38. Each of these cities has many more officers than average for cities of similar size, says Governing magazine. Data-driven policing strategies, economic growth and decreased alcohol consumption were bigger contributors to the overall drop in crime than having more police or higher incarceration rates, said the Brennan Center’s Inimai Chettiar. The police have a bigger job than they once did, with a mandate that includes fighting terrorism, cybercrime and identity theft — much of which is not reflected in FBI crime data, said Meghan Hollis, a criminologist at Texas State University.