John Buntin wrote a fascinating piece in Governing's July issue about Cathy Lanier, Washington, D.C's chief of police. Her personal story is compelling, and her approach to policing is clearly innovative and working well. The District has had a huge economic resurgence that is due in no small part to the fact that its crime rate -- especially homicides -- has fallen dramatically, down 42 percent in just the past three years. But another number in Buntin's article caught my eye as well. He describes "all hands on deck," Lanier's "annual early summer effort to deploy her 4,500-member police force in high-crime areas across the city."

That's a lot of police officers. At 65.56 per 10,000 residents, Washington's police force is nearly half again as large on a per-capita basis as Chicago's (44.17), Philadelphia's (43.21) and New York City's (41.77).

Don't get me wrong. I think this is a good thing. In my opinion, we're in the middle of a controlled experiment to see whether more police and more proactive policing reduce crime -- or, conversely, whether less of both leads to more crime. Many cities across the country -- especially small and mid-size ones -- are experiencing sharp increases in homicides after more than a decade of decreases. Many of these cities have had to reduce the size of their police forces in the face of budget constraints.

Modern policing methods, begun under the mantle of the "broken windows" theory and pioneered by Bill Bratton when he was New York City's police commissioner, are tilted toward police being proactive -- working to prevent crime rather than just reacting after the fact. Using data on outputs and outcomes, Bratton focused on holding officers responsible for results and on reducing fear of crime in the community. Lanier is extending Bratton's ideas and theories by working to make her officers more connected to the community, but these methods require a large police force deployed in high-crime areas.

A recent New York Times article related a story about when Martin O'Malley, now governor of Maryland, was preparing to become mayor of Baltimore in 1999. He and Jack Maple, who was the architect of the CompStat system of data-driven policing used by Bratton in New York City, were driving around East Baltimore. "They were playing a favorite game of Maple's - spot the cop," recounted Michael Enright, O'Malley's first deputy mayor. Maple "liked to see how present police officers were in the most violent parts of the city. It was extraordinary how few cops you see, how long it would take to see a uniformed presence."

A city's crime rate involves any number of complex factors, ranging from employment to racial diversity. Public officials can't directly affect many of those factors. But they can control the number of police officers their city employs and the strategies those officers use. Various studies have shown that putting more police on the streets does indeed reduce crime. For example, a 2005 study of crime in Washington, D.C., during periods of heightened terror levels -- when officers work extra hours and "surge" into the U.S. Capitol area -- found that street crime dropped not only around the National Mall but throughout the city.

Mayors and community leaders across the country are looking at the success that Chief Lanier has had in Washington. Here's the lesson they should draw: Yes, times are tough and budgets are tight, but more cops, better managed, equals less crime.
 

Data

The following table shows the number of total full-time law enforcement employees and officers per agency in 2010, as reported to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program. Columns on the right show the number of employees and officers per 10,000 residents. The most populous 100 localities reporting data are listed.

 

             
City State Population All Law Enforcement Employees Total Officers Employees / 10K Pop. Officers / 10K Pop.
New York New York 8,336,002 50,068 34,817 60.1 41.8
Los Angeles California 3,841,707 12,754 9,858 33.2 25.7
Chicago Illinois 2,833,649 13,318 12,515 47.0 44.2
Houston Texas 2,280,859 7,054 5,351 30.9 23.5
Philadelphia Pennsylvania 1,558,378 7,532 6,734 48.3 43.2
Phoenix Arizona 1,544,427 4,198 3,146 27.2 20.4
Las Vegas Metro Police Nevada 1,416,401 5,130 2,696 36.2 19.0
San Antonio Texas 1,392,198 2,949 2,303 21.2 16.5
San Diego California 1,313,433 2,516 1,863 19.2 14.2
Dallas Texas 1,306,775 4,241 3,666 32.5 28.1
San Jose California 970,252 1,624 1,259 16.7 13.0
Honolulu Hawaii 950,268 2,554 2,066 26.9 21.7
Detroit Michigan 899,447 3,210 2,890 35.7 32.1
Indianapolis Indiana 825,072 1,913 1,648 23.2 20.0
Jacksonville Florida 822,414 3,310 1,751 40.2 21.3
San Francisco California 818,594 2,629 2,250 32.1 27.5
Charlotte-Mecklenburg North Carolina 797,733 2,187 1,696 27.4 21.3
Austin Texas 796,310 2,141 1,605 26.9 20.2
Fort Worth Texas 746,433 1,918 1,505 25.7 20.2
Memphis Tennessee 673,650 2,775 2,335 41.2 34.7
Boston Massachusetts 644,064 2,680 2,094 41.6 32.5
Baltimore Maryland 639,929 3,503 2,960 54.7 46.3
Louisville Metro Kentucky 637,428 1,379 1,211 21.6 19.0
El Paso Texas 624,322 1,279 1,078 20.5 17.3
Seattle Washington 620,195 1,861 1,344 30.0 21.7
Nashville Tennessee 616,366 1,584 1,289 25.7 20.9
Denver Colorado 607,051 1,705 1,470 28.1 24.2
Milwaukee Wisconsin 605,921 2,663 1,936 43.9 32.0
Washington District Of Columbia 601,723 4,477 3,945 74.4 65.6
Oklahoma City Oklahoma 571,865 1,254 1,015 21.9 17.7
Portland Oregon 564,392 1,186 957 21.0 17.0
Albuquerque New Mexico 545,389 1,441 1,055 26.4 19.3
Atlanta Georgia 536,472 1,973 1,612 36.8 30.0
Tucson Arizona 527,107 1,295 974 24.6 18.5
Fresno California 484,734 1,007 793 20.8 16.4
Kansas City Missouri 483,191 1,993 1,404 41.2 29.1
Sacramento California 472,469 1,019 696 21.6 14.7
Omaha Nebraska 464,628 918 789 19.8 17.0
Long Beach California 462,267 1,252 889 27.1 19.2
Mesa Arizona 452,725 1,186 776 26.2 17.1
Miami Florida 440,482 1,453 1,098 33.0 24.9
Virginia Beach Virginia 435,873 938 775 21.5 17.8
Cleveland Ohio 426,042 1,805 1,559 42.4 36.6
Raleigh North Carolina 419,700 883 770 21.0 18.3
Oakland California 409,723 935 674 22.8 16.5
Colorado Springs Colorado 397,886 894 617 22.5 15.5
Tulsa Oklahoma 393,412 822 736 20.9 18.7
Minneapolis Minnesota 385,704 1,009 880 26.2 22.8
Arlington Texas 383,715 817 629 21.3 16.4
Wichita Kansas 376,880 802 630 21.3 16.7
New Orleans Louisiana 356,317 1,715 1,452 48.1 40.8
St. Louis Missouri 355,151 1,920 1,363 54.1 38.4
Tampa Florida 347,830 1,245 952 35.8 27.4
Santa Ana California 340,240 623 353 18.3 10.4
Anaheim California 338,492 548 389 16.2 11.5
Bakersfield California 333,458 469 349 14.1 10.5
Cincinnati Ohio 332,365 1,214 1,090 36.5 32.8
Aurora Colorado 323,483 765 644 23.6 19.9
Toledo Ohio 315,647 677 566 21.4 17.9
Pittsburgh Pennsylvania 312,737 954 887 30.5 28.4
Riverside California 301,859 512 361 17.0 12.0
Lexington Kentucky 300,069 623 544 20.8 18.1
Stockton California 292,047 532 342 18.2 11.7
Anchorage Alaska 290,334 526 373 18.1 12.8
Corpus Christi Texas 287,559 657 445 22.8 15.5
St. Paul Minnesota 281,166 773 592 27.5 21.1
Newark New Jersey 280,379 1,666 1,308 59.4 46.7
Plano Texas 278,244 495 332 17.8 11.9
Buffalo New York 265,128 918 768 34.6 29.0
Henderson Nevada 264,280 550 346 20.8 13.1
Lincoln Nebraska 259,672 410 325 15.8 12.5
Greensboro North Carolina 257,237 746 641 29.0 24.9
Fort Wayne Indiana 257,009 493 458 19.2 17.8
Mobile Alabama 255,178 766 523 30.0 20.5
Glendale Arizona 245,387 553 408 22.5 16.6
Jersey City New Jersey 244,201 984 831 40.3 34.0
St. Petersburg Florida 243,666 774 538 31.8 22.1
Chandler Arizona 241,826 478 320 19.8 13.2
Orlando Florida 240,222 939 719 39.1 29.9
Madison Wisconsin 238,224 548 443 23.0 18.6
North Las Vegas Nevada 238,004 468 308 19.7 12.9
Norfolk Virginia 234,100 842 759 36.0 32.4
Durham North Carolina 233,790 598 485 25.6 20.7
Winston-Salem North Carolina 232,928 688 528 29.5 22.7
Birmingham Alabama 231,009 1,163 858 50.3 37.1
Laredo Texas 230,674 501 419 21.7 18.2
Scottsdale Arizona 230,496 676 423 29.3 18.4
Chula Vista California 229,060 312 230 13.6 10.0
Lubbock Texas 227,867 513 382 22.5 16.8
Baton Rouge Louisiana 226,001 832 728 36.8 32.2
Chesapeake Virginia 225,627 484 365 21.5 16.2
Reno Nevada 222,242 392 323 17.6 14.5
Garland Texas 221,921 448 323 20.2 14.6
Hialeah Florida 217,995 401 342 18.4 15.7
Irvine California 217,193 289 200 13.3 9.2
Gilbert Arizona 215,215 320 214 14.9 9.9
Savannah-Chatham Metro Georgia 210,744 808 579 38.3 27.5
Fayetteville North Carolina 208,263 518 366 24.9 17.6
Irving Texas 206,308 503 339 24.4 16.4
Boise Idaho 205,902 364 296 17.7 14.4