By Dr. Currie Myers
Bad criminal justice public policy will eventually lead to an increase in crime, high taxes, and a mass exodus of businesses and citizens.
Cities across the country that have previously mandated poorly thought out criminal justice public policy, such as police defund movements are now faced with severe budget crunches. These policy decision has resulted in triggering an increase in crime and urban flight from former taxpayers who no longer can live in the cities due to public safety concerns. As revenues deplete from the city coffers then elected officials are more inclined to increase city and state taxes, fees, and regulations. So then in addition to the high crime, the tax commitment on residents become so burdensome that people and corporations will also leave.
When sales taxes increase citizens will leave. People living in high tax cities feel their communities have been overrun by crime, violence, open usage of drugs and an aggressive homeless population. “In 2021 the 10 states that gained the most residents from domestic in-migration had an average total state and local tax burden as a percentage of income of 7.7 percent,” Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, wrote for The Wall Street Journal this week, “notably lower than the 9.9 percent of the 10 states that lost the most residents.”
When crime is increasing, and police are decreasing the demand for homes in those areas drops and so do home prices. A lack of public safety in one area will shift the demand to another market. As a result when property values decline, revenue to cities decline, which further impacts the governments services. A 2010 study published in Regional Science and Urban Economics, Panel Data Estimates of the Effects of Different Types of Crime on Housing Prices,” found that in particular robbery and aggravated assault crimes exert a meaningful influence upon neighborhood housing values.
Starbucks is closing locations nationwide due to a surge in drug use among customers and an increase in crime. Starbucks locations will be closed in Seattle, Los Angeles metro, as well as Portland, Philadelphia and Washington, DC, according to the Wall Street Journal. Walmart has closed many urban locations due to high crime. The closures come months after CEO Doug McMillon warned the discount retailer was seeing a spike in losses related to in-store theft or fraud. Target stores in high crime locations are adjusting their times to try to curtail soaring theft. They join Walgreens, which has closed stores in direct response to criminal activity.
Far more bad news is on the horizon. A University of Southern California study found that even with temporary closures, “The area immediately around a closed restaurant experienced an increase in property crime and theft from vehicles.” And when private economic resources are wasted, too. As sales taxes increase, law enforcement officers are depleted and product and food deserts occur, a large black market develops for such items as meat, alcohol, marijuana, cigarettes, gasoline, or anything else starts to impact the city, which in turn only fuels more crime.
When revenue is down, cities also start to rely significantly on fines, fees, and property forfeitures from citizens to fund their budgets. Research suggests that police departments who collect higher shares of their revenue from fines, fees, and forfeitures solve crime at significantly lower rates. Civil forfeitures that are not associated to criminal arrests make it easy for governments to forfeit property and hard for the owners of that forfeited property to fight the civil forfeiture in court and generally has low standards of proof which is the evidentiary burden prosecutors must meet to connect the seized property to a crime.
The criminogenic forecast for 2023 and 2024 looks bleak at best. Urban centers should be prepared for police officer recruiting and retention to continue its downward trend. As crime continues to rise, retail stores will withdraw from the community, followed by grocery stores and pharmacies. These business withdrawals will result in the lost of significant sales and property tax revenues to the cities. Additionally, property tax revenues will fall when home ownership crumbles. Lastly, cities will continue the supplanting of governmental budgets and increase fines, fees, and forfeitures.
There is an opportunity to start anew. First and foremost fund police appropriately, through general funding categories. Second, increase the training standards and apply more outcomes-based training modules that prepare law enforcement for the future. Third, apply evidence-based policing that uses key performance indicators, metrics, and data in order to determine the utilization of resources. Fourth, enact specialty courts, for areas like mental illness, and increase work and educational opportunities for former offenders. And finally, understand fully the unintended consequences of increased taxation on your citizens.
Dr. Currie Myers is a criminologist, retired sheriff and in on faculty in the criminology department at Benedictine College. His work can be viewed at drcurriemyers.substack.com