Fighting crime: How much does it cost?

(NewsNation) —  How much does it cost to fund the nation’s fight against crime in the U.S.?

The estimated cost of crime is a staggering $4.7–$5.8 trillion annually, according to research from the University of Chicago. Despite that, many cities are seeing crime levels at an all-time high.

In New York City, the New York Police Department is the first line of defense. The department, comprised of more than 30,000 active-duty police officers, is one of the leading law enforcement agencies in the world.

“All of our public safety efforts are coordinated, decisive and focused on the singular aim of making our communities safer,” NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said.

The department uses cutting-edge technology and top-tier training for its army of police officers to maintain law and order on some of the toughest streets in America in an effort to keep communities safe.

In 2022, the NYPD budgeted $5.8 billion in operating costs, but a total of $10.9 billion has been budgeted to include expenses for fringe benefits, pensions and debt service.

So far this year, shootings and murders are down in the city, but crimes like burglary, larceny and robbery are up. These are crimes that keep the police busy and cost the community money.

“There’s an economic cost if your home is burglarized, what have you lost?” said Pat Lynch, the president of the New York Police Benevolent Association, which is the union that represents 24,000 NYPD officers.

He said crime is costing the NYPD through attrition. The long hours and short pay are driving officers away.
And he says the revolving door of justice now swings in favor of the perpetrators, leaving officers feeling like their sworn duty to protect and serve is meaningless.

“We’ll arrest someone, they will come back with their property voucher before we finished processing the paperwork. What does that mean? Those criminals aren’t going out and going to church,” Lynch said.

In Los Angeles, council members have approved a nearly $12 billion budget for the city’s 2022-2023 fiscal year.

The city is looking at an $11.8 billion budget, with a plan to increase the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) operating budget to about $1.9 billion. The change would bring the department’s total funding, which would include pensions, to about $3.2 billion.

And in the Midwest, Chicago — a city with the second largest police department in the country — Mayor Lori Lightfoot has proposed giving the department a $1.9 billion operating budget for 2023.

In Chicago, the city budgeted $1.88 billion for the Chicago Police Department (CPD) in 2022, according to a press release from the mayor’s office. For 2023, the proposed budget recommends a $64.3 million increase for the city’s police department, which would total just over $1.94 billion.

The nation’s three largest police departments spend more than $15 billion to fight crime, yet the overall crime rate in each of those cities remains high.

“I think that there are a number of reasons why the cost of crime is very important to look at,” said David Anderson, a professor of economics at Centre College in Kentucky.

Anderson has studied the cost of crime for more than 20 years.

His most recent published research revealed the total cost of crime in the U.S. — including law enforcement, criminal justice, victim losses and even fear and agony — is estimated at close to $5 trillion.

“I would say that the direct cost to taxpayers is just over a trillion dollars per year. That’s not including the other repercussions, the opportunity costs, the transfers, things like that,” Anderson said.

Anderson says the only other expenditures in the country that come close to the cost of crime are the annual cost of health care at $3.8 trillion and $2.7 trillion spent on food and shelter.

A team of researchers at Vanderbilt University found that there were more than 120 million crimes — including 24 million violent crimes — committed in 2017, which amounted to a financial impact of $2.6 trillion for personal crime in the U.S. The research found that the direct costs to victims and taxpayers totaled $620 billion, which is about $1,900 for every person in the country.

In 2022, that cost has nearly doubled. Now, taxpayers are spending nearly $3,000 each toward the cost of fighting crime every year.


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