Every year the FBI publishes its Crime in the United States report, in which they compile the volume and rate of violent and property crime offenses for the nation and by state. I have spent some time going over the numbers and looking for trends in the data for the year 2013. The first thing that really caught my attention is the relationship between the number of police officers and the occurrence of violent crime in each state. To normalize the data, I compared both metrics per every 100,000 residents of each state. What I have found is that the states with the most police officers also have the highest rate of violent crime. I am fully aware that correlation does not always equal causation, so I am not trying to imply that the presence of police officers cause crime. It does appear that police officers are staffed reactively. Meaning that police officers are hired to combat rising or elevated crime rates.
In the scatter plot below, the number of police officers per 100,000 residents is along the horizontal axis and the incidence of violent crime per 100,000 residents is along the vertical axis. Each circle represents a state in the United States. To highlight a certain state, simply click on it in the legend below the chart. The best way to interpret this is to look along the horizontal axis and as the number of police officers increase, the circles appear higher on the vertical scale – indicating a higher incidence of violent crime. Hover over the circles to see the exact values for each state.
Data Source: FBI Uniform Crime Reports.