YONKERS, N.Y. – Yonkers has been among the most “overpoliced” cities in the nation, a recent study has found.
Researchers at the University of California-Berkley examined 50 years of data relating to crime rates, the number of officers and various socioeconomic factors to determine the “cost of crime” in more than 240 cities around the country.
In the report published late last month, professor Justin McCrary and Aaron Chalfin, a doctoral candidate, ranked Yonkers as the 27th most “overpoliced” city in the nation in terms of costs and benefits.
“Given the amount and the types of crimes Yonkers sees and the number of officers, it looks as though Yonkers has more cops than you think might be needed,” Chalfin said last week.
On average, every dollar spent on policing nationally is associated with $1.60 in reduced victimization costs. In Yonkers, however, every dollar spent yielded 60 cents in crime reduction benefits. Researchers say this suggests law enforcement is relatively expensive in Yonkers and indicates the city may be "overpoliced."
“It’s it not good to be overpoliced,” McCrary told the Chicago Post-Tribune. “A city that is overpoliced is like a city where everyone has hired their own bodyguard.”
The idea that Yonkers has too many officers on its payroll may come as a surprise to many as Yonkers has often been regarded as understaffed.
Yonkers Police Commissioner Charles Gardner said last week the city has unique circumstances that make it difficult to compare to others.
“We are currently reviewing this newly released study,” Police Commissioner Charles Gardner said in a statement. “The city of Yonkers as compared to other cities of similar size has a relatively low crime rate based upon UCR (Uniform Crime Report) Part 1 crime statistics maintained by the FBI. We face unique circumstances here in Yonkers, including the fact that we border the city of New York, one of the largest cities in the country and a premier terrorist target in our region."
In their 80-page study, using data between 1960 and 2010, McCrary and Chalfin said they found that, in general, increasing police presence in a city lowers the cost of crime. In Yonkers, crime costs – pain and suffering or the cost of replacing stolen goods – were roughly $516 per resident. By comparison, crime costs in the most “underpoliced” city in the nation, Gary, Ind., were $4,376 per person.
But there is such a thing as too much police protection, researchers said.
Nationwide, there is an average of 250 police officers per 100,000 residents, Chalfin said. Yonkers has roughly 310 officers per 100,000 residents, a ratio that is comparable to a city like Atlanta, which fields a much higher crime rate, he said.
And Yonkers spending breaks down to roughly $132,000 per officer, the study says, slightly higher than the national average.
“Certainly, when you compare Yonkers to other cities, it has more police officers than the average city and far lower crime,” Chalfin said.
Keith Olsen, president of the Yonkers Police Benevolent Association, disputed the idea Yonkers has too many cops. Olsen said the duties of Yonkers police and the variety of crimes committed in the city "are not reflected in the misleading UCR statistics."
Because Chalfin and McCrary based their findings on such statistics, “the study looks to be inherently flawed to begin with,” Olsen said.
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