Online study finds efficient police spending in Alabama cities

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A new study by an online financial services company found that three Alabama cities fared within the top 25 nationally when it comes to the bang for their law enforcement buck.

The survey shows Birmingham coming in at No. 9 overall out of more than 100 large cities, with Montgomery (No. 19) and Mobile (No. 24) putting up respectable showings as well.

WalletHub came up with the rankings — which they call their “ROI (return on investment) on law-enforcement spending” ratings — based on crime rates and per capita expenditures on police forces.

Birmingham’s crime rate came in at 8.45 percent, which ranked 100th in that category compared to the other cities examined, spending $414 per capita in order to achieve that rate.

Mobile and Montgomery had average crime rates of 5.33 percent and 6.16 percent respectively, spending $316 and $267 to achieve.

To control for major cross-city differences in the economic status of cities, the firm adjusted police-spending levels by three key economic factors: poverty rate, unemployment rate and median household income, which shifted the rankings significantly.

Without adjusting for those factors, Birmingham’s police spending efficiency ranked 76th nationally, while Montgomery (No. 21) and Mobile (No. 38) fared much better. The rankings were conjured, however, to reflect the efficacy of funds spent bearing in mind the challenges local police and residents face.

“Our perceptions of safety are both idiosyncratic and subjective, meaning that coming together as a community to agree on the ‘right’ amount of public safety is an inherently difficult task,” remarked Jacob Fowles, an Assistant Professor of Public Affairs and Administration at the University of Kansas.

“In general, I think as long as governments are transparent about the expenditure choices that they make – and make the information available to citizens in an easily digestible way – citizens are empowered to voice their own opinions based on their willingness to be taxed and their preferences for various government goods and services,” said Fowles.


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