An investigation of data by a Michigan news organization has found a somewhat surprising correlation between the number of law enforcement officers and crime. And one outlet is trying to figure out why, suggesting unleaded gas, an increase concealed carry gun permits, and even more abortions could be at play.
Even though the number of cops in the state has declined, so too has the amount of crime, according to MLive Media Group.
Grand Rapids Police Lt. Mike Maycroft leaves a roll call at the start of his shift on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013 in the Grand Rapids Police Department. Michigan has seen a sharp drop in reported crime even as the number of police officers has declined around the state, according to an analysis of a decade of crime data. (Photo: AP/The Press, Emily Zoladz)
"People don’t get robbed as much, or assaulted, or raped. Cars thefts are rarer by half. Your wallets and purses are less likely to be taken. At the same time, there are fewer police in your neighborhood," MLive reported.
MLive reviewed the state's police force and crime statistics since 2003, finding:
- Ann Arbor lost 31 percent of its officers, to 111. Population stayed nearly stable. Still, violent crimes dropped 11 percent; property crimes dropped 23 percent.
- Lansing lost 26 percent of its officers, falling to 187. Population fell just 4 percent. But violent crime fell 8 percent, and property crimes fell 20 percent.
- Saginaw lost 22 percent of its officers, to 86, and 15 percent of its population from 2003 to 2012. But violent and property crimes dropped much more, both nearly 30 percent.
Grand Rapids since 2003 saw a 17 percent drop in its number of officers and a 33 percent drop in violent crime.
Some cities, like Detroit and Flint, were an exception to this trend, seeing fewer officers and an uptick in crime. But overall, MLive reported an average of one in 10 full-time officers being laid off in the last decade -- about 14 percent -- and a 22 percent drop in violent and property crimes through 2011, which is the last reported data from the FBI.
Hamburg Twp. Police officer speaks with on lookers at the scene of a fatal shooting in Green Oak Twp., Mich. on Monday, Feb. 18, 2013. (Photo: AP/Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, Alan Ward)
Nationwide, MLive noted crime dropping as a whole since the 1990s. The trend of fewer police officers has been experienced across the country as well.
The Department of Justice reported the first decline in 25 years for law enforcement officer positions in 2011. The decline was attributed to budget constraints for states and municipalities, due to the economic downturn.
Although the FBI won't comment as to why crime is going down -- because the bureau is "not opinion-based," according to Detroit FBI Spokesman Simon Shaykhet -- there are some theories out there. Of the theories for the drop in crime, MLive reported unleaded gasoline, abortion and cellphones being among them:
- Unleaded gasoline has reduced dangerous leaded emissions that made some children more impulsive and violent as they grew older
- Legalization of abortion reduced the number of unwanted children who might have lower socio-economic success generations later.
- Children are living at home longer – with economic support – beyond their prime crime years.
- Better crime-mapping technology deploys patrols to high-risk areas. The explosion of cellphones leads to quicker calls for help. The proliferation of neighborhood watches deter crime.
Other potential reasons cited by MLive are an aging population with fewer incoming youths and an increase in gun ownership.
Concealed carry ownership in the state went from 53,000 in 2001 to 405,408 last month. These statistics, MLive pointed out, do not include other firearms owned for sport or home protection.
Michigan State Police Trooper Chris Kurish checks a gun being carried by the driver of a car after a traffic stop on Detroit's west side on Friday, Dec. 28, 2012. Michigan has 16 percent fewer police officers on the street now than it did a decade ago, and communities around the state are trying to find more efficient ways to keep people safe. (Photo: AP/Detroit Free Press, Ryan Garza)
TheBlaze recently reported on an infographic from the National Shooting Sports Foundation with statistics that supports the notion that more guns equals less crime. We've also taken a look at how the statistics as a whole are interpreted differently in the debate between gun ownership and crime levels.
Some also think that actual reporting of crimes has decreased, which could skew the numbers.
“I think that a lot of crime is going unreported. I think people are figuring, ‘What good does it do you?’” Michigan Association of Police Executive Director Fred Timpner told MLive. “A pizza delivery guy is faster than a police officer in a lot of locations.”
Either way, there are likely a variety of factors that contributed to a decrease in crime even with a smaller police force.