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An analysis of the impact of downsizing on the ability of Vallejo's police to close offenses by arrest


 

By Robert Schussel, Ph.D

8/21/11


 

Purpose

The purpose of this article is to examine the relationship between the number of Vallejo police officers and their ability to clear (close through arrest or exceptional means) offenses.


Background

There has been much discussion in Vallejo about the extent to which crime rates have been effected by the decline in Vallejo police staffing (from about 145 prior to 2008 to 111 in 2009). What has been missing from these discussions is the impact on the ability of the police department to pursue criminal acts and solve cases resulting in the of arrest those individuals involved.

 

Methodology

To analyze the relationship between staffing and arrests/solved crimes “cleared offenses” (supplied by the VPD) were reviewed for the time period 1995 to 2010. To compare Vallejo's performance to other cities of similar size, cleared crimes from the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports were used. A crime is considered "cleared" when offenses are "closed" by arrest/ or exceptional means (for example a person is identified to an agency for arrest/prosecution).


Caveats

1) Monthly Clearance Data (1995 through 2010) was obtained from the Vallejo Police Department as part of a Public Records Act request.

2) Because a significant amount of the data for the years 2004 and 2005 was missing a decision was made not to include any 2004 or 2005 data in the analyses.

3) December 1999 data was not provided.

4) Many crime categories have relatively low clearance rates nationally such as Robbery(26%), Burglary(12%), Larceny (18%) and Motor Vehicle Theft (11%)


Findings

1) When Vallejo Police Department staffing levels were at or above 133 officers (1995 through 2007) the number of total cleared Violent Crimes was significantly higher than those for comparable size cities (100,000 to 250,000 population) especially Aggravated Assaults. From 2008 through 2010 Vallejo's cleared Violent crimes were below the national average.

 

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From 1995 to 1998 (when violent crime rates were at their highest and staffing was somewhat lower 133 to 142) cleared violent crimes were significantly higher than the national average. Higher staffing levels in the Vallejo Police Department (2000 to 2003) did not lead to a larger percentage of cleared crimes compared to 1995 to 1998 when staffing levels were lower.

 

2) Cleared Property Crimes were similar to the national average from 1995 to 2007.However cleared crimes have declined significantly from 2008 onwards. During the period from 1998 through 2007 the VPD cleared significantly more burglaries than the national average (about18% versus 12%).

 

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3) Using Pearson Product Moment Correlations there was NOT a statistically significant relationship between the number of police officers (133 to 158) and cleared violent and property crimes for the period 1995 through 2007. It was only when the number of Vallejo police officers dropped to 116 or less did the relationships become statistically significant.


4) For both violent and property crimes, the number of cleared cases started to drop (2004? to 2007) even though staffing levels were still high.


Comments

1)The data suggests that the Vallejo Police Department has done a good job of clearing offenses especially violent crimes until their staffing levels fell in 2008. While the Vallejo Police Department has regularly complained that they were understaffed. It appears that even with just 133 officers, their performance on clearing cases was significantly above the national average for violent crimes.


2) If staffing levels return to 120 or more it might be possible for the number of cleared offenses to be similar to the national average.


3) Even though staffing levels were still relatively high, the decline in cleared cases began during 2004/2005. This does raise the question as to whether tensions surrounding the police contracts, and the overall political climate in Vallejo had an influence on performance.


Final comment

Taxpayers will need to decide whether they can afford the hiring of more police officers (perhaps 10 –estimated cost $2.5 million annually) to try to get the number of cleared cases back to the national average. It will cost at least $5million in new hires for the VPD to return to their prior levels of clearing cases.