Violent Crime is Trending Down, But Police Funding is Not

Jul 3, 2020

The ongoing national debate over policing is raising new questions in Virginia about local government spending on public safety.

Over the last decade or so, violent crime has gone down about 30% in Virginia according to statistics from the FBI. And yet spending on local law enforcement has not gone down at all. In fact, spending on the State Police has gone up.

Laura Goren at the Commonwealth Institute says the same communities that suffer from racial profiling and overpolicing also suffer from cuts to social services and education.  “We haven’t seen a corresponding drop in the amount of money that our state and local governments spend on law enforcement, which means we're still spending large shares of our budgets on law enforcement despite having much lower crime rates than in the past.”

Frank Shafroth at George Mason University says crime trends show the investments are paying off.  “I think that spending has had some positive effect," Shafroth argues. "So I think there would be reluctance on the part of any elected officials to say we need to cut it back.”

Since 1960, communities across the country have been steadily increasing their spending on policing according to the Federal Reserve. The Commonwealth Institute points out there’s been little or no correlation between a change in spending on policing and a change in crime rates.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.