Guest Commentary: Throwing Money at Problems - Will a sales tax increase lower crime in Elk Grove?

By DJ Blutarsky | 

If the City Council places a sales tax increase on the ballot in November, I have prepared myself for the onslaught of promises that the City will claim the added revenue will help improve or fix. One of the go-to hot buttons will likely be the promise to reduce crime by hiring more police officers. But is this a good sound bite or will a sales tax increase truly reduce crime in our city?

Each year the City police department reports crime statistics and department staffing levels to the F.B.I. So out of curiosity, I reviewed the latest online data reported for 2019 and compared it with the data for 2018 and 2017.  I singled out the categories of Property Crimes and Larceny Theft because those two categories are more likely to impact the average resident, then say Murder or Rape. I realize that as the population increases, crimes will surely increase as well. So I looked at the crime rates per 1,000 population. 

The charts below indicate that despite the number of sworn officers remaining constant at 0.79 officers per 1,000 population, the property crime and larceny-theft rates have steadily increased. Property crime incidents have increased from 13.0 to 14.8 per 1,000 population. Larceny theft has also steadily increased from 13.7 to 14.0 incidents per 1,000 population. Again, these numbers have all taken population increases into account, and yet these two crime statistics are showing a worsening trend.

Elk Grove Crime Statistics
Year          Population     Property Crimes    Larceny Theft    No. Officers
2017          172,620                  2245                        1668                 137
2018          174,651                  2359                        1859                 139
2019          175,492                  2599                        2107                 140

Elk Grove Police Officers Per 1,000 Population
2017 - 0.79
2018 - 0.79
2019 - 0.79

Elk Grove Crime Rates Per 1,000 Population
Year         Property Crimes      Larceny Theft
2017                13.0                          9.6
2018                13.5                        10.7 
2019                14.8                        12.0    

Before I buy into a sales tax increase to fund more officers, I would like an explanation on why the crime rates for those two categories are worsening, despite the officer staffing levels keeping pace with the population. Before we throw money at a problem, help us taxpayers understand exactly what the problem is before you promise to fix it. 

The same holds true for the candidates who no doubt will be plastering these similar promises on their campaign flyers.

FBI information: 

Photo by Karolina Grabowska

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