Wilmington’s crime rate has soared — so has its police spendingJared WhalenBlockedUnblockFollowFollowingMay 29Illustration: Jared Whalen; photo: creative commons)Policing has taken up a greater and greater share of government spending in Wilmington over the last three decades and today makes up a larger portion of government expenditures in Wilmington than in any other large U.
city, according to data on local government finances.
Out of $516 million spent in 2016 in Wilmington by the municipal and county governments, $67 million, or 13.
1 percent, went to policing — twice what it was in 1990, when policing costs were 6.
5 percent, or $39 million, of $597 million in government spending.
(All numbers are adjusted for inflation to 2016 dollars).
That’s also twice the average share of government spending that other big cities spend on policing, according to the Fiscally Standardized Cities (FiSC) database from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.
The database compiles annual numbers gathered by the U.
Census Bureau for a selection of 150 cities — including the most populous cities in the U.
and the largest in each state so that at least two cities from each state are included.
Source: FiSC database by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy / Chart: Jared WhalenAccording to the data:Wilmington spends more per person on policing than any other city.
In 2016, the most recent year for which data is available, the per-capita price tag was $932, or 2.
6 times the national average of $365 for big cities.
The per-capita cost of policing in big cities has steadily increased for decades nationwide.
In the early 1980s, the average per-person cost was $211.
By 2016, that number had increased by 98 percent to $399.
Still, the change was even greater in Wilmington, increasing from $404 to $932 over the same period — a 130 percent increase.
The only city to rival Wilmington in per-capita spending over the last decade is Washington, D.
— a city the Lincoln Institute says is an unfair comparison because it provides services that typically belong to state governments.
The gap between policing costs in Wilmington and other cities began to grow dramatically in the early 1990s.
The proportion of funds was slightly higher than average since at least 1977, but that gap grew from one percentage point in 1990 to six points in 2016.
Source: FiSC database by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy / Chart: Jared WhalenAbout the dataEvery city is funded differently, with different layers of government, such as the city, county, and school district, all spending money in different ways.
For example, some cities see more county spending in them than others, or share costs for some services.
That makes it misleading to directly compare municipal government budgets alone.
The FiSC database combines these overlapping layers to look at all government spending in a city.
“Cities operate within very different government structures,” said Adam Langley, associate director of tax policy and data initiatives at the Lincoln Institute.
“The FiSC is trying to make an apples-to-apples comparison.
”This type of analysis reveals a more holistic picture of spending: For example, the City of Wilmington itself spent 22 percent of its 2016 expenditures on police protection, making it the seventh highest for big cities, but the city jumps to the top of the list when all local government funds serving the city are taken into account.
How that money is spentWilmington’s latest annual report shows personal services, such as salaries, pensions, hospital costs, and overtime account for 86 percent of the police department’s approved 2019 budget.
“The vast bulk of police budgets are personnel,” said Barry Friedman, a professor at New York University School of Law and Director of the Policing Project.
In 2016, the Wilmington Police Department had 42 officers for every 10 thousand residents, the fifth-highest among big cities, right behind Philadelphia and St.
Louis, according to FBI estimates.
Between 1995 and 2016, the department went from 298 to 360 employees — a 21 percent increase.
Those employees cost money: Boosted by overtime pay, police officers are among the city’s highest paid employees, as reported by The News Journal.
Regular salaries alone account for 44 percent of this year’s approved spending, with overtime pay adding another 4.
While FiSC data is only available up to 2016, city data shows that the internal police budget has hovered around $60 million the last two years.
Crime data reported by police departments to the FBI show that police spending in Wilmington generally followed the violent crime rate — increasing in 2004 when violent crime jumped, for example — but the increase in violent crime rate outpaced the increase in police spending.
Source: FiSC database by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy / Chart: Jared Whalen“We spend a lot of money on public safety but we have remarkably little information on what works,” said Friedman.
While police spending in Wilmington increased 70 percent since the mid-90s, the violent crime rate increased by 150 percent.
In 2017, shootings and homicides increased 35 and 22 percent respectively, hitting an all-time record of 197 shot and 33 killed.
The number of violent crimes in general increased 11 percent, from 860 in 2016 to 941.
The Wilmington Police Department did not respond to a request for comment for this story by the time of publication.