Homicide levels are elevated so far this year in a few major cities that cut the budget of their police department, which raises the question — are the homicides upticks directly associated to slashes in police funding?
In a report released by the Major Cities Chiefs Association — which combines crime data of 63 metropolitan areas across the U.S. — homicides are up by 30% in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the first quarter of 2020.
Defunding the police has not turned out to be a progressive success, Tabletmag.com reports. The five cities that reduced their police budgets the most in 2020 — Austin, Texas; New York; Minneapolis; Seattle; and Denver — have seen murders spike over the past year, well above the national average.
The outlet reports that while some have partially gone down the path of defunding in 2020, New York, Baltimore, and Oakland, California, have now taken steps to restore some police funding.
In "ultraliberal" San Francisco, the vast majority of city residents want more police; almost half are considering leaving the city, citing social disorder as a key reason, Tabletmag.com reports. Meanwhile, residents in the Capitol Hill area of Seattle are putting up barriers to keep the homeless out.
In Austin, the City Council voted last summer to cut $21.5 million from the police budget and shift another $128 million from the Police Department to other city departments, the Austin American-Statesman reports. The effect has been a cancellation of a cadet class and the dissolution of some law enforcement units.
In many cities, homicides upticks have occurred despite increases in police funding since last year. The newspaper reports that Houston increased police department funding by adding $20 million to its nearly $1 billion budget, yet saw a 20% increase in murders in the first quarter of the year, while both Dallas and Fort Worth also increased law enforcement funding while recording upticks in homicides in the first quarter of this year.
But in some cities, leaders say the budget cuts are doing the opposite of what they are intended to do.
U.S. Rep. Chip Roy says that Austin leaders' decision to cut police funding and reduce the size of the city's police force has led to skyrocketing homicides and argues that these changes have led to “a doubling of murder” that has been harmful to the city’s black and Latino communities.