Fuzzy Math and Flawed Stats Don't Make the Case That Fewer Cops Equates to Less Crime

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Not everyone with an anti-police bias is a die-hard member of the extreme left. There are quite a few libertarians who are willing to beat that particular drum. It seems the issue is that the police will enforce the law regarding crimes that some people don’t think should be crimes.


I get it.

But crime is a problem and while we can arm ourselves to deal with that should it come to our door, the police have a role to play in reducing it.

Or do they?

A while back, a case was made by anti-cop writer Radley Balko that fewer cops meant less crime. The example he gave to prove this was a city in Minnesota where the local police department lost half its officers and, apparently, criminal activity dropped.

Or did it?

Over at our sister site Hot Air, David Strom has an examination of just what really happened.

So what happens when a small city doesn’t have enough police officers to perform the tasks necessary? According to Balko, crime plummets as the citizens discover that self-control is a wonderful thing and they no longer live under the Jackboot of racist cops.

Yeah, well, no.

This level of staffing required the city to contract with the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office to cover police calls 50 percent of each day. Given the history of what has occurred in Golden Valley, the city should prepare for a long and arduous process as it attempts to attract potential police officer applicants, as has been the case in Minneapolis.

The second claim, “Crime is down,” is true only if you rely solely on data collected and reported by the Golden Valley Police Department (GVPD). But the disclaimer on the police department’s crime statistics site clearly notes: “The below reports do not include data from the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office.”

Oops. If you do as Balko does and just go to the Golden Valley Police Department website, it sure looks like those crime numbers dropped.

Except the city is policed 50% of the time by the Sheriff’s Department, and those numbers aren’t included. What happens when they are?

The combined data comparison from January through June 2022 and 2023 indicates:

  • Calls for Service are up 16 percent.
    Arrests are up 21 percent.
    Citations (misdemeanor offenses) are up 40 percent.
    Crimes Against Persons are up 49 percent.
    Crimes Against Property are down slightly at 4.8 percent.

Well, crimes against property are down, so there is that. But if you are a person, not a TV,  a 49% increase in crimes against persons kinda sucks.

This is what we call pushing The Narrative™. Balko has been a reporter for years, has written two books, and knows how to do research. Either he is a drooling idiot–and he had to go through the New York Times’ fact-checkers so they had to be idiots too–or they did a sleight of hand, knowing they were not telling the truth.


I’ll be more generous than my colleague. It’s entirely possible that Balko just got too excited to see his preconceived notions confirmed that he didn’t even think to check.

But either way, it’s the same thing. A story ran making the case that you don’t really need as many police officers to address crime itself, which will no doubt be used by many to justify defunding police departments and reducing the total number of officers on the streets.

Yet as we can see, only half the picture was being painted. If you look at the numbers in aggregate, you can see that the reduction in police officers of the local department led to an increase in crime, even though the county sheriff’s office provided coverage.


Well, the easy answer is that with fewer police patrolling the streets, criminals felt they had the freedom to do what they wanted in the city without being caught. Sure, there was someone answering calls, but they’d all heard about half the department leaving. Bad guys get news in their social media feeds, the same as everyone else.

They figured it would be easier pickings, most likely.

But even if the numbers had been complete, there’s something that keeps being missed by way too many people, and that’s how correlation doesn’t equal causation.


This community had been relatively crime-free for decades despite being adjacent to a high-crime area. Then, suddenly, crime spiked. There was no change in the number of police reported, so it looks like a similar number of cops.

If crime had dropped at the same time a large portion of the department left, it would be a stretch to think that one had anything to do with the other.

Strom, who lives near this area, seems a bit put out by Balko’s claim, and I can’t say I disagree with him in the least. The police aren’t perfect and they need to be held accountable for their mistakes, but this idea of pretending they make the problem worse needs to end.

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