Why Mt. Juliet does not need additional police officers

mj-policeThere have been several newspaper stories over the past few months and a recent editorial in the Mt. Juliet News referred to the “fact” that “the department is woefully undermanned when compared to a nationally recognized recommended average of manpower. ”

Problem is, there is no nationally recommended average of manpower.

And comparing the ratio of officers to population in Lebanon and Mt. Juliet is misleading in the extreme.

It assumes that there is some “one size fits all” easy formula to determine the size of a local police force.

There isn’t. And for a very simple, and logical reason. Local communities vary quite widely. The number of police officers per 1,000 population in New York City will be vastly different than the number of police officers per 1,000 population in Brentwood, Tennessee. And neither of them will be wrong.

It takes a bit more research to make sense of the numbers, but not all that much.

Thankfully, for the past eight years the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has been compiling crime statistics for every city and county in Tennessee. And it’s available online here: http://www.tbi.state.tn.us/divisions/isd_csu_sac.htm

There’s also an online statistical center where you can retrieve the data in a variety of interesting ways: http://www.tncrimeonline.com/.

To evaluate a local community’s need for police officers, the first and most important statistic is the crime rate.

According to the TBI, there were 618,998 crimes reported in 2008 in the state of Tennessee. With a population of 6.15 million, the crime rate for the state is 100.54 crimes per 1,000 population. It’s even more interesting if one examines the data for local jurisdictions. You can look at the full report by clicking here: 2008 Crime rate.pdf

The crime rate in Memphis is 191.49, or almost twice the state average.

In Nashville, it’s 148.05, or about 50% above the state average.

Lebanon’s rate is 143.43 crimes per 1,000 pop – almost the same as Nashville.

LaVergne’s rate is 81.03 or about 20% below the state average.

Wilson County’s rate is 77.58.

Brentwood’s rate is 28.38.

Why in the world would anyone assume that Brentwood should have the same number of police officers per 1,000 pop as Memphis? Memphis’ crime rate is more than 6 times higher than Brentwood’s.

And Mt. Juliet?

Mt. Juliet’s crime rate is 65.98 crimes per 1,000 pop. That’s less than half the crime rate in Lebanon. Logically, if both cities have populations of 25,000 Lebanon will need twice the police officers as Mt. Juliet. Which is about the size ratio of the two departments.

Mt. Juliet is NOT “woefully undermanned.” Mt. Juliet does NOT need to add any police officers.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Why Mt. Juliet does not need additional police officers

  1. Bobby Franklin

    Cities with public housing have much higher crime rates.

    “Affordable” housing can be very expensive when you factor in the cost of services.

  2. Butch Huber

    Hmmm……..

    This requires a little more thought.

    First off, I would like to know the police coverage ratio between markets. For instance, is the crime rate in Memphis so high because they have a low ratio of police officers when compared to the number of citizens? Is Brentwood’s crime rate so low because they have a high ratio of police officers when compared to the number of citizens? Now, I realize that there are many other factors to consider, but the ratio of police officers when compared to number of citizens would seem to be an important factor.

    Socio-economic status would reasonably play a part. Brentwood has a very large upper income populous, which I believe has a major impact. They may be committing crimes just like the rest of the world, but their crimes largely go undiscovered or under-discovered. In other words, they aren’t “violent” crimes, they are “white Collar crimes”. I don’t really know how much “police” time is spent chasing down white collar crimes. It seems to me that people only get prosecuted for white collar crimes when they step on the “wrong” toes and end up being investigated by organizations like the TBI and FBI. But then there is the lower economic demographic. That is where the largest part of the criminal activity that most police officers seem to be involved with. When you look at lebanon, you see a very large base of lower economic populous there. They have projects there unlike anything I have seen in Mt. Juliet. There is a lot of criminal activity there that doesn’t exist nearly as much in this city. But is that because we have a better police force?

    Then there is the size of the city. If you look at the area served by Lebanon’s police force when compared to Mt. Juliet’s coverage area you will see that Lebanon covers a much, much larger area than Mt. Juliet covers. It would stand to reason that Mt. Juliet would need less officers than Lebanon just on that basis.

    Then you have to look at goals. If the goal is to respond to crime, you need a certain number of police officers, but if you are also looking at crime prevention you will need a different number of police officers.

    I am way more in favor of crime prevention than I am in response…not that I am not interested in response. By focusing on crime prevention you ultimately reduce the expense, in both monetary terms and in suffering.

    I believe that police coverage is a major component of government that government “should” be involved with, and therefore I am all for spending the necessary funds to have a high quality police force that is properly and adequately equipped and trained to do the job. I believe that properly running a police force pays dividends in many ways. But at the same time, we need to make sure that we are not throwing money away also.

    I personally believe we could probably use some more officers in Mt. Juliet, but the crime statistics paint a part of the picture that needs to be painted.

    Folks, don’t let Bobby Franklin’s post go unnoticed. We have changed our city’s model from being more like Brentwood to being more like Antioch, so we are likely to head in the direction of Antioch in terms of crime statistics. This is going to come at a great cost in both monetary terms and in suffering. This was brought to you by Linda Elam and her hand-picked staff.

  3. Ray Justice

    Just a quick post…there are some incorrect comments that were made and probably need to be addressed. The Department of Justice has posted a “recommended” number in relation to the numbers associated for police officers to residents. Those numbers were 1.9 officers per capita above the Mason Dixon line, 2.3 below the Mason Dixon line, and 2.6 in the deep South. Keep in mind those are recommendations and based on averages, and as Butch and Publius both have stated, do not take into account the individual characteristics of each city. The difference between Lebanon and Mt. Juliet is absolutely the public housing and the influence it brings. Mt. Juliet has attracted a higher economic demographic with the influx from Providence and some of the other developments brought to the city. In terms of needing more police officers…there was a plan to bring in more officers with specific divisions to be reinforced so that a more proactive stance could be taken toward crime prevention. Unfortunately, this takes time and the plan was put on the back burner, it appears, due to budget constraints. If you drive down Lebanon Road or MJ Road, you will regularly see several patrol cars on the main roads stopping traffic offenders, as they should, but without a specialized division to address traffic, all officers are expected to address the issue and while this happens who are in the neighborhoods? a K-9 unit was recently put on the road to assist with drug interdiction and is working very well. This was the “war on drugs” that was supposedly won several years ago. A special response team was recently put in place to address emergency response issues in the city as they occur and is being trained currently. Specialized divisions seem to be the accepted trend and seem to address the specific problems in dealing with law enforcement issues. We all should look at the recommendations made by Chief Garrett. He was not “hand picked” and his expertise in dealing with budget issues from a large department, as well as, his experience and training in upper management from Metro cannot be disputed. He is doing a good job.

  4. Sonny Griffin

    I have also been reading articles concerning our “rainy day fund”, our inadequate police force and fire service issues.

    First let me say that quality of police officers far outweighs the number of police officers that a community has at its disposal.

    As an example, in the last few years I have spent time traveling throughout Mexico. About the first thing that you notice are police troopers everywhere on the streets with M-16s slung over their shoulders. We all know what the crime rate is in Mexico.

    Mt. Juliet is fortunate to have a police chief with a lot of experience and respect in the law enforcement community. It reflects in the daily performance of our street officers. There is no doubt in my mind that quality police officers act as a deterrent to crime. Therefore, it does not come as a big surprise that Mt. Juliet has a low crime rate.

    What is so ironical about this whole “we don’t have any money” talk is that it is coming from the same idiots that were so fervently advocating the “donation” of $2,000,000.00 to the YMCA a few short months ago.

    This is about a property tax, folks. Get ready.

  5. Paul Deyo

    Good comments from all of you. I would like to see more traffic enforcement on the Interstate (especially semis) and subdivisions, as well as more neighborhood patrols. While some help is provided by the state with Interstate enforcement, the other items would require more officers and perhaps a shift in priorities. Some of the more notorious speed traps could be given a rest and those units repositioned to within neighborhoods where kids are endangered by speeders. I agree the chief is doing a good job with what he has to work with.

    Ray perhaps you could explain why truck lane violators aren’t ticketed, as you have a better understanding than me of how that law is supposed to be enforced. I’ve seen semis tailgating cars in the fast lane while Metro officers sit there at the side of the road.

    Butch, you are absolutely correct about the attempt to change the city’s character. In my discussions with the mayor she has talked out of both sides of her mouth on the issue but her city planner is not at all shy about her desire for more low cost housing and multifamily. She even tried to stack the deck one time by trying to change Planning Commission meeting times to accomodate those more friendly towards unfettered development. Her goal was to help advance a giant multifamily complex. I headed that one off at the pass not too long before being dismissed by her highness.

    Sonny, last sentence on the money.

  6. Ray Justice

    Paul,

    I really can’t speak as to the policy of the Metro Police Department or their methods of enforcement when it comes to commercial vehicles . I will say I agree with you the larger commercial vehicles do pose a problem on the interstates but the Tennessee Highway patrol not only has more experience, but also more expertise when it comes to this type of enforcement. Mt. Juliet officers are commonly seen on the interstates but to what extent they enforce commercial vehicles as opposed to individual cars and trucks, I don’t know. I will also say the Tennessee Highway Patrol is understaffed and this has put traffic related law enforcement, throughout Wilson County, in a reactive position rather than proactive. The officers on the road for THP are top notch but overwhelmed and with our population growing, it’s not going to get any better.

  7. Deputy Justice’s comments are welcome here, as always.

    I would disagree with one significant detail in his post. The Department of Justice has no “recommended number” for the ratio of police officers to population. They collect statistics and they report averages. They make no recommendations as to appropriate staffing for local agencies.

    The averages reported by the Department of Justice are cited correctly by Deputy Justice, but they are not recommendations. They are simply the averages for different regions of the country.

  8. Pingback: Why Mt. Juliet still doesn’t need any more police officers « Radio Free Mt. Juliet

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