Every year, the city of Seattle spends millions of dollars on crime prevention. But a new study done by George Mason University that compared Seattle’s crime prevention programs with similar programs around the country found that more than half of the programs don’t have good results and that some of those programs may actually increase crime while others have mixed results.
With an annual budget of more than $13 million dollars out of 63 crime prevention programs, only 17 report that they are actually making our city safer.
An audit of the programs found $11 million is spent on 35 programs that don’t report their results or have mixed success rates. It also reported that three police department programs could actually have a “backfire” effect and contribute to causing more crime.
“It’s begun a conversation about whether or not crime prevention programs are effective in the city,” Claudia Gross-Shader, assistant city auditor, said.
As city council members start to look at next year’s budget, discussions surrounding these programs are starting to take place.
“These are taxpayer dollars, they’re coming from all of us that live in Seattle, so we want to make sure they’re being spent as efficiently and effectively as possible,” city auditor David Jones said. “We do want to get to a point where all the programs that are funded by the city of Seattle have definite goals and performance measures.”
According to the study, three of those programs – the Proactive Gang Prevention Unit , School Emphasis Truancy and Suspension Reduction and School Emphasis Officers actually led to higher crime rates in other cities.
Seattle police claim that their programs do work, even the School Emphasis Officers, which places casually dressed cops in schools even while and has been shown to backfire in other cities.
"It’s not only a question of cutting programs that are shown to be ineffective, it also means maybe the ones that are working really well deserve more money," Elliott Sanders, a Seattle resident said.
"The [programs] don’t sound like a waste of money, it sounds like they’re a good use of money. $13 million sounds like a lot of money, but when you consider the overall city budget, it’s probably not a lot to spend on efforts to reduce crime,” said Matt Price of Poulsbo.
But Jones said, “We’re spending the tax dollars and we need to know what’s actually cutting crime.”
City auditors are recommending a lot more research into each program along with more diligent reporting of success rates in order to look at which programs are worth the cost of investment.