Florida Governor Ron DeSantis praised a new state law that he defended as “the strongest anti-riot and law enforcement law in the country”.
O new law increased criminal penalties for crimes committed “for the sake of a riot or an aggravated riot.” It also allows state prosecutors or councilors to appeal budget proposals that seek to reduce police operational budgets to the state’s Administration Commission. The commission, composed of the governor and cabinet, has the final say.
“This bill actually prevents local governments from defusing law enforcement”, DeSantis said after signing the bill on April 19. “We can prevent this at the state level. And if you look at some of the places that did this, they have seen crime on the rise.”
DeSantis’ office pointed to news about rising crime in six places: New York, Los Angeles, Austin, Washington, D.C., Minneapolis and Philadelphia. The types of crimes and time periods used to measure these increases varied by city.
These cities reduced or redistributed part of the police funding while struggling with the coronavirus pandemic and activist calls spend less on policing and more on mental health services and crime programs.
However, criminologists contested DeSantis’ link between budget cuts and worsening crime.
Experts said the limited data and selective deadlines disregard the key points:
Murder and armed violence were already on the rise in 2020, before cities changed their budgets. (Some of the six cities are still in the process of transferring money from the police.)
Cities that did not cut police budgets also saw the number of murders increase in 2020.
“These comparisons of increased crime with reductions in the budget or police personnel are strictly anecdotal. In the first instance, they should be compared to changes in crime in cities that have not changed policing,” said Richard Rosenfeld of the University of Missouri, St Louis. specialist in crime trends. “Furthermore, they are, at best, correlations between changes in crime and policing. They say nothing about whether or how changes in policing have caused changes in crime.”
Proper assessment of budget changes and their impact on crime must control several factors that influence criminal activity, said Charis E. Kubrin, a criminologist at the University of California, Irvine. Those factors include poverty, unemployment, drugs, gangs, weapons, housing insecurity and demographic changes, she said.
‘Defuse the police’ and changes in city budgets
After The murder of George Floyd by a police officer in May 2020, activists protesting racial discrimination and excessive use of force by the police have asked cities to “defund the police.” While some protesters want to completely eliminate police departments, others want to revisit the functions of police departments and redirect part of police funding to other services.
The six cities signaled by DeSantis have not abolished police departments or canceled their budgets. But they approved less funding for police departments for fiscal year 2021. Some responded by transferring police functions to other departments in the city, eliminating resources earmarked for paying overtime, freezing tax hires, among other measures.
Cities made budgetary changes in fiscal years that began on July 1, 2020 and until January 1, 2021.
PolitiFact contacted each of the six cities to learn more about the budget changes and how they were significant in relation to the general police budget. We received responses from the majority, but we received limited information.
In Philadelphia, a $ 33 million cut in the police budget represents about 4.5% of the general fund’s budget adopted by the department’s $ 727 million.
New York City officials last year said they agreed to remove $ 1 billion from police department spending. (The Citizens Budget Committee, a watchdog group, said the net reduction in the police budget so far has been about $ 477 million.) total budget for 2021 was $ 10.2 billion.
Los Angeles cut $ 150 million from the police’s operating budget. Department 2021 expenses is more than $ 1.7 billion.
Minneapolis employees in December said they transferred $ 7.8 million of the proposed budget to the police to other departments in the city. Overall, the city approved $ 164 million to the police department. (The city’s fiscal year occurs simultaneously with the calendar year.)
The Austin American-Statesman reported in a $ 150 million cut in the police budget, which represents about a third of the police budget. But city spokesman Jaquarry Wilson contested the characterization of the funds being cut, saying that $ 121.7 million “was simply transferred to two transition funds”, while the municipal team determines what services can be offered. by other departments in the city. Another $ 31.5 million has been reinvested in other community security initiatives in other departments, Wilson said.
National peaks to be considered
DeSantis’ claim did not take into account how the crime manifested itself nationally in 2020.
Many cities registered peaks in homicides in 2020, regardless of changes in their police budgets.
The increase in crime is probably the result of “social disorganization” caused by the coronavirus pandemic, said Samuel Walker, professor emeritus of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska in Omaha.
Social disorganization involves weakening basic bonds of social control, such as good jobs and stable families.
Across the country, murders increased each quarter of 2020 compared to the respective quarters in 2019, according to preliminary FBI data.
The number of manslaughter and manslaughter crimes increased 14.8% nationwide in the first half of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019, according to preliminary data reported to the FBI by more than 12,000 U.S. law enforcement agencies.
At the same time, the FBI said there was a general drop in the number of violent crimes and crimes against property.
“The complicated causes of the huge increase in murders in 2020 were already clearly established before the budget cuts for 2021 were approved,” said Jeff Asher, a criminal analyst and co-founder of the consulting firm AH Datalytics.
Some of the local news offered by the DeSantis office has also compared homicides in 2021 to 2020. A report focused on murders in New York City during the first 10 days of 2021 versus the first 10 days of 2020; other analyzed homicides in Philadelphia from the beginning of 2021 until mid-March, compared to the same period in 2020.
Short-term homicide data can be “notoriously unreliable,” said Michael Campbell, a criminologist at the University of Denver. Homicides are relatively rare compared to other crimes, leading to wide fluctuations in homicide rates.
“However, everything points to a broad increase in homicides, domestic violence, firearm crimes and other serious crimes,” said Campbell. “Things are bad everywhere and it is easy to aim for these big cities, but it is impossible to determine any clear relationship and I would be surprised if one ever came up.”
The cuts in police funding do not automatically mean that the department will make a decision that endangers public security.
When police departments are on a tight budget, they try to make adjustments that save services for citizens or affect their perception of security, said Kevin Robinson, a professor at the Arizona State University School of Criminology and Criminal Justice.
Departments, for example, could choose to replace a patrol vehicle every five years instead of four, said Robinson, who has served in the Phoenix Police Department for nearly 40 years.
Other cities, also experiencing increased homicides, increased police funding for 2021
Bloomberg CityLab analyzed the 2021 police budgets of the top 50 US cities in January. Overall, police budgets in cities have been reduced by 5.2%. But spending on the police as a share of general expenses increased slightly, to 13.7%.
At least 24 cities have increased police funding for 2021, Cover between them, Bloomberg reported. Tampa city officials voted in September to increase the police department’s budget by $ 13 million for fiscal year 2021 to $ 176 million.
The Tampa Bay Times in mid-November reported that Tampa, like other cities across the country, saw an increase in the number of murders in 2020 compared to 2019.
DeSantis said, “If you look at some of those places that (cut off police funding), they’ve seen crime increase.”
One element of truth in DeSantis’ statement is that crime has increased in six major cities. But he said it was because of budget cuts, when murders and armed violence were already on the rise in 2020, before cities changed their budgets.
None of the budget changes have taken place for an entire year, so it is too early to say the extent of their impact on crime, if any. A proper assessment would control many factors that influence criminal activity, experts say.
We classify DeSantis’ claim as basically false.