Gary, Ind., is the most “underpoliced” city in the nation, a new study released this month shows.
“Over a quarter of people’s income is lost due to crime. It’s very big relative to other cities. It says something about the degree to which victimization affects people in Gary,” Aaron Chalfin, one author of the study, told the Post-Tribune.
Examining crime rates, income, the number of police officers, their salaries and other socioeconomic factors, Chalfin, a doctoral candidate, and Justin McCrary, a professor at University of California, Berkeley, determined the “cost of crime” in more than 130 cities.
With per capita annual income of $15,383, the cost of crime for each Gary resident is $4,376. That cost could translate as pain and suffering, or the price to replace a stolen car.
By comparison, Sunnyvale, Calif., ranked first as the most “overpoliced” city in the United States, costing each resident there about $280,000 per officer and the cost of crime $169 per resident.
“It’s it not good to be overpoliced,” McCrary said. “A city that is overpoliced is like a city where everyone has hired their own bodyguard.”
For every $1 Gary spends on police, residents receive a $14 return, suggesting the cost of law enforcement here is cheap, the authors said.
In theory, hiring more officers would solve the high crime rate, but the city’s financial problems prohibit that, McCrary said. Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 61 President Sam Abegg said he estimates the department could perform better with at least 75 more officers, bringing the roster to about 300.
Another way to bring the city’s crime costs down would be to redeploy manpower, moving more officers onto the streets. The authors say, however, the work inside the police station is also important and to reduce staff could hinder investigations.
Chalfin said using statistical analysis to focus efforts on recognized crime areas can reduce criminal activity. Gary already has a Crime Suppression Unit, which supports patrol officers and also works in targeted areas.
“It is always our goal to give our citizens the best police coverage possible, and I’m glad to see that this study speaks to that,” Police Chief Wade Ingram said. “Since our force is smaller than it was in years past, we continue to employ innovative practices to help fight crime such as crime suppression units, increased foot patrol and our crime tip hotline to name a few.”
Perhaps the most effective way to increase police power without increasing expense is to merge with another department, McCrary suggested.
“The bigger police departments are a lot cheaper to run,” he said. But the result can also mean a loss “of texture and nuance” that residents will resist when they deal with officers unfamiliar with the territory.