Crime is a constant on the daily news cycle. Over the past two years, there has been discussion around the safety of our nation and our communities and how our nation’s police force can best assist our cities, states and communities in our efforts to live safe and secure lives.
We were curious to know how what the landscape looked like. How many police are there in the United States and when we break down the numbers and look at the state and city level, what do those numbers show? What are the most heavily policed areas of the country?
In determining how to properly staff a police force, many important factors such as budget, crime rates and trends, and population growth are considered.
Police departments are made up of both sworn officers and public employees. For our purposes, we focused strictly on the city and state reported numbers of total sworn officers, not total law enforcement employees as reported in the FBI’s most recent and completed Uniform Crime Report *, we looked at data at the national, state and city level.
When we back out to a national view of the same data and statistics, the average number of police officers per 100,000 residents is 234 which helps put some of this state information into perspective.
Though not a state and with a population just over half a million, Washington D.C.’s rate of police officers is close to three times the national rate. Per 100,000 residents, that’s a 194% increase over the national rate.
The second closest state, New Jersey, while still above the national average, employs only 46.7% more sworn officers. Maryland, ranked as the 6th most police state is has only 11% more police officers than the national average and the rate continues to drop until we fall below the national average with California, employing 1% fewer sworn officers. As we mentioned before, the number of law enforcement employees required are determined by a number of factors, including trends in population density and other social and political issues of a city, state and region.
Below is a chart of the most policed municipalities in the U.S. Using additional state and town data collected by the FBI and excluding towns with less than 2,500 residents, we found the following to be the most cities and towns with the highest rate of police officers per 10,000 residents. One trend you’ll notice immediately is that the most policed towns are not necessarily the most populated. Ocean City, Maryland with just over seven thousand residents has over seven times the avg. number of officers per 10,000 residents — almost double Atlantic City, New Jersey. But what’s also apparent is that many of these places are areas with high tourism rates.
Why is this worth noting? While the increased ratio of police to residents is due in part to the need to have enough police on staff during population surges during peak tourist seasons, it should also serve as a reminder to all travelers and vacationers to practice additional safety and awareness while away from home. In an unfamiliar area and focused on having a good time and making memories, many vacationers may become careless and become easy targets for criminals.
An increased police presence is widely accepted as helping to reduce crime rates; however, your personal safety is a personal responsibility, so while seeing men and women in uniform may increase your sense of safety while you’re enjoying yourself, it should also be a reminder to maintain situational awareness, travel into areas known to be safe for tourists and keep any and all valuables in the hotel safe.
20 Most Policed Places in the U.S
Excluding towns with less than 2,500 residents, we looked at all towns, cities and major metropolitan areas to identify the most policed places in the United States.
20 Most Policed Cities & Metro Areas
Our ranking for the 25 most policed major metropolitan areas is probably not all that surprising. The District of Columbia (which also topped our state list) maintains the top spot with cities including Baltimore, Chicago, Philadelphia and New York rounding out the top five.
What is interesting to note is how quickly the rate above average police officers per 10,000 residents drops. According to the data provided by the FBI, there are less than 20 major metropolitan areas (areas with a population greater than five hundred thousand) that have a police force employed above the average as reported at the city and state level.
The chart below compares cities with more than 100,000 residents and major metropolitan areas with populations above 500,000.
20 Most Policed Towns
In considering the police rates for towns within the U.S., we held our data to those with populations between 10,000 and 100,000 residents.
What’s interesting to note when we look at towns with total residential populations above 10,000 and below 100,000, we find only fourteen of them, of the data reported, actually employ sworn officers at a rate above the average of all cities and towns as reported to the FBI. When looking at larger towns and small cities, those with populations between 100,000 and 500,000, only St. Louis, Missouri employs more police per 10,000 residents. At a rate 43.4 officers, St. Louis is more than double the average as reported of 20.4 officers per 10,000 residents.
While crime rates vary from city to city and depend on a host of factors including economy, employment, population density and many other factors, one study showed a marked reduction in certain types of crime with an increased presence of uniform police.
In 2005, Jonathan Klick, the Jeffrey A. Stoops Professor of Law at FSU, and Alexander Tabarrok of George Mason University, published their study of the police district around the White House and National mall in the Journal of Law and Economics. The study focused on crime data in D.C. after the implementation of the terror alert system by the Office of Homeland Security. Between March 12, 2002 and July 30, 2003. During this time period, the terror alert level rose and fell four times.
“They found a drop of about three crimes per day, or 15 percent, around the National Mall area where the increased police were concentrated during the high alert periods. Overall, crime was down in the city by an average of seven crimes a day or 6.6 percent, Klick said.”
All current discourse and debate aside, the purpose of the police is to help maintain law and order and ensure the civility and safety of a community. But safety and security is the civic, personal and familial responsibility of every citizen. From voting for the elected officials you believe will best represent your interests and the interests of other community members to getting involved in local crime reduction programs and ensuring your home’s security and safety is taken care of there are numerous things you can do to help make your community better.
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