Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Police on Foot?!

One thing that's been really noticeable to me here in New York City is the fact that police walk the beat. Sure, they also drive around, but I ran into a lot of uniformed police just walking the streets yesterday. I've been racking my brain, but I can't remember any examples of this happening in LA.

What does it say about a city's walkability that NYPD finds it a cost effective use of resources to have police patrol on foot? Not only does it save money, it helps the environment and reduces noise not to have as many squad cars zooming around.


  1. I thought it was common knowledge that NYC vastly increased the number of police officers in order to control the crime in the area. LA has instead focused on changing police tactics, with dismal results. A quick check of Wikipedia shows me that NYC has 75 police officers per square mile, while LA has 20. I think this is a sufficient explanation of why NYC has many officers on foot and LA does not.

    Regardless of the walkability of a city, people on foot can't cover as much ground as people in cars. The ability to police on foot comes from increased spending, not increased efficiency. This increased spending is largely a result of higher population density (and therefore tax base), but this is a separate issue from walkability.

  2. My research shows that NY does have more officers per capita. This could be a factor in their decision to deploy some on foot. However, as a long time LA resident, I know that police on foot just don't make sense in wide swaths of the city (so many fewer people per acre and so many fewer people walking). On the streets of Manhattan, it actually seems like it would be easier to interact with potential perps on foot :)

  3. I think this rebuts your supposition that it's cheaper to employ New York's police force, however. Checking the NYPD recruitment website, you can see that a recruit starts out at a salary of over $43,000, which jumps to just over $90,000 after five and a half years. I don't have any hard numbers for the costs of police cars, but I'd be quite surprised if these salaries don't dwarf the amortized yearly cost of keeping a car on the street. People are much more expensive than cars.