Is a big drop in overall crime rates reflected in police spending trends?

Friday, June 26, 2020
By Jiyul Kim

From 1977 to 2017, state and local government spending on police increased to $115 billion from $42 billion (measured in 2017 inflation-adjusted dollars). As a proportion of those governments' direct general expenditures, spending has held steady at just under 4% throughout the period.

On either of the federal government's measures, violent crime rates have fallen dramatically between 1993 and 2018--by 51% on FBI data, and by 71% on data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

The reaction to recent incidents of police brutality has focused attention on the balance of police spending compared to other public services. Advocacy groups such as the Center for Popular Democracy argue that, especially in large cites, funds should be reallocated to other urban needs such as health, education or housing.

This Fact Brief is responsive to conversations such as this one.
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