Serious crime, response times, and sprawl

A disclaimer to begin, data is never perfect especially when if comes to crime.  If the community has a total of 1 crime and you are the victim, its bad.  There has never been a crime rate of 0 thought that would be nice.  It is important that we have a police presence that can adequately respond to crime.  The tricky part is balance the substantial cost of adding police officers to with the substantial cost of putting services and amenities in place that serve to prevent crime such as libraries, parks, affordable housing, transit and social services.

I was alarmed when I heard that the average response time to a Type 1 (most serious) crime was now over 7 minutes.  As a person that is driven by data I wanted to better understand if the issue was that we have too much serious crime for our number of officers, if the community design (sprawl) was adding too much to response times, or both.  Based on comparisons to peer cities I think that our sprawl might be a major issue.

Too often we just look at the number of police officers that we have and we conclude that we don’t have enough, by that same measure we could conclude that we don’t have enough hurricane proof homes. Here the data shows that we don’t have the officers that a number of peer communities have.

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Of course we don’t need the same ratio of officers because we are such a safe city relatively speaking:
 photo ScreenShot2014-08-11at81034PM_zps2770c7ea.png

When we actually look at the number of officers that we have per serious crime event you can see that we actually are doing quite well:
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Yet despite this fact our response times are getting worse and worse. I suspect this is related to the substantial sprawl that is pushing officers to cover more and more territory. We are nearly 75% the geographic size of Minneapolis with less than 1/3 of the population. Sprawl is eating us alive.

Hiring police officers is hugely expensive. To add 1 officer per shift is more that $500k annually. Cheaper solutions should be investigated before spending this kind of money.  My biggest fear since being on the council has been more for officer’s safety than for the public’s.  Our officers do amazing work and I do fear for their safety and backup when we get spread so thin.

Big thanks to Police Chief Peterson and team for putting this data together for me.


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