Study gives Buffalo high marks for efficient police spending

Jan 11, 2016

As numerous controversies have thrust a national spotlight on policing, a recent study has placed Buffalo in the top 10 cities in the nation when it comes to efficient spending on public safety.

WalletHub, a financial research company, ranked Buffalo 6 out of  the 104  largest cities when it comes to efficient spending on law enforcement.

Jill Gonzalez, an analyst for WalletHub, said Buffalo's effective spending patterns include the utilization "hot spot" policing, which assigns officers to areas that have higher crime rates.

"Instead of just throwing money at the police force, they’re really using this efficiently...and keying in on certain problem areas that they’re seeing," Gonzalez told WBFO.

Credit WBFO file photo

To assess how efficiently the nation’s most populated cities spend taxpayer dollars on public safety initiatives, WalletHub calculated each city’s "return on investment" on law enforcement spending based on crime rates and per-capita expenditures on police forces. The data was then "normalized" based on each city’s poverty rate, unemployment rate and median household income.

“Because [Buffalo] has pretty low statistics for things like the median household income, a higher poverty rate, and a higher unemployment rate, it has more to overcome than a lot of other cities on this list,” said Gonzalez. “So although the crime rate, when you just compare it straight across, ranks 82nd, when you run that economic regression, it’s actually doing pretty well, especially for how little money it’s spending.”

Buffalo’s low per-capita spending on policing also factored into its top ten ranking.

Rochester and Syracuse also ranked in the top 10 cities for efficient police spending.

Still, some have criticized the data compiled by the Washington-based firm, saying the results would be different if other variables were included, including cost of living. For example, had the data not been subjected to some of the variables that were used, Buffalo's ranking would have dropped to 45.

"In presenting our findings, it is important to underline the fact that 'efficiency' is different from 'overall safety,' which does not account for spending rates," Wallethub's website noted.

Washington, D.C. ranked last in the study that assessed return on investment on police spending, while New York City, San Francisco and Orlando were in the bottom 10 cities.