MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It seems like a simple equation: more police on the streets equals less violence.
And that’s exactly what we found when we checked gunfire reports the week after a 5-year-old boy was shot and killed while sleeping on a couch in north Minneapolis.
ShotSpotter technology logged almost a third fewer shots after Nizzel George died — from 80 the week he was shot to 55 the next. That’s when 25 extra officers patrolled the six-block area around the crime scene.
ShotSpotter technology is only used in Minneapolis. It and a network of cameras work together to record crime in real time. And this month, the technology showed far less gunfire.
“That was the Fourth of July week, and it went down 30 percent,” said Minneapolis Police Chief Timothy Dolan.
Dolan says the drop in reported gunshots is directly related to the increased presence of officers on the streets.
However, it took $60,000 in overtime costs to make it happen.
So do more police on the ground lead to a safer community? Dolan says they do, but it’s a police presence that’s too expensive to maintain.
Putting more officers on the streets permanently would bust his budget, the chief said.
“It would take a major shift in how…we look at the criminal justice system and what we’re funding,” he said.
Dolan thinks the system should be geared more toward prevention than incarceration.
“For every person that is convicted of a homicide, taxpayers pay upwards of $3 million or more per person,” he said.
The numbers reflect what it costs to try, convict and incarcerate a criminal for 20 to 30 years.
“If you look at the cost for prevention — whether it’s police officers or prevention programs or re-entry programs or mentor programs — those are nickels on the dollar,” the chief said.
Dolan said we do spend money on prevention efforts, but we should be spending ten times that as a society.
And it’s not just a problem in Minneapolis, he said. cities across the country are also rethinking how they go about dealing with the cost of crime.