The Police and Crime Control

Part 2: Examining the Facts

Written by Dr. Gary Potter

In the first installment of this series, we examined the perceptions that exist regarding the police.

The question, of course is, are the police the “thin blue line” protecting from crime? How much real crime do they actually deal with and how effective are they? What would it mean to our crime control policies if we found that the socially constructed view of police was a myth?

Consider the following facts:

Fact # 1: Public expenditures for policing increased by $72.6 billion between 1986 and 2006.

1986: $26.3 billion
1996: $53.0 billion
2006: $98.9 billion

Fact # 2: The average police office spends no more than 10-20% of his or her working day dealing with crime or public suspicions of crime. In evaluating the 10-20% of their time police officers spend in contact with the public it is clear that the vast majority of police-public contacts are not crime related. There were 43.5 million police-public contacts in 2005. Those contacts broke down as follows:

Traffic stop: 43.8%
Traffic accident: 12.5%
Person reporting a crime/problem to the police: 23.7%
Police providing assistance: 6.2%
Police investigating crime: 5.6%
Other reason: 5.3%
Person suspected of wrong-doing by police: 2.8%

Fact # 3: The research clearly shows that police patrol has no impact on reducing crime, citizen fear of crime, or citizen satisfaction with policing.

Fact # 4: The research clearly shows that detectives solve only 3% of the crimes referred to them.

Fact #5: In 2009, the effectiveness of police in making arrests in serious criminal victimizations was as follows:


Total Victimizations (2009) NCVS

Total Arrests (2009) UCR

Arrests as a percent of total victimizations

Rape/Sexual Assault








Household Burglary





11,709, 830



Motor Vehicle Theft




If we look at all index crime victimizations we find that there were:

  • 30,243,180 index crime victimizations in the U.S. in 2009
  • 2,919,879 index crime arrests in 2009 (about 10%)

EKU professor Dr. Gary Potter has written many books, including Drugs in Society, Criminal Organizations, Organized Crime and Controversies in White Collar Crime.

Published on October 08, 2013