Mere Police Presence Deters Crime
Officers' function as a crime deterrent is just as important as their function to capture criminals.
Numerous studies have found a correlation between a larger number of police officers on the force and a reduction in violent crime. When it comes to violent crime in major cities, a 2018 article in the Review of Economics and Statistics found that every $1 spent on additional police forces generated $1.63 in social benefits. This conclusion, which used data from multiple cities across 50 years, found that the resulting social benefits were mainly a consequence of reducing murders. Research has also shown that just perception of getting caught by police for certain is a bigger deterrent than any threats of punishment. Given the rates of recidivism, or repeat offenders, prison time does not seem to be a good deterrent in and of itself. Another study—this one from 2005— found that the mere presence of visible police in a public place was enough to deter crime. That is their biggest benefit to society: simply existing. Foreign terrorist attacks are prevented because the country shored up intelligence agencies, the military, and border patrol agencies. These men and women often do 'invisible' work and stop not only enemies from carrying out plots but thinking long and hard before even plotting. The same holds true for local police departments. If more police means less crime, then it would stand to reason that the absence of police would encourage those with a propensity to commit crimes to act.