In an exclusive for American City & County, Govalytics analyzed its top 25 MSAs to show total expenditures for public safety for cities and counties in 2012. The cities that spent the most in 2012 saw positive returns on the investments.
MSAs, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, are cities and their metro (or micro) areas. “A metro area contains a core urban area of 50,000 or more population, and a micro area contains an urban core of at least 10,000 (but less than 50,000) population. Each metro or micro area consists of one or more counties and includes the counties containing the core urban area, as well as any adjacent counties that have a high degree of social and economic integration (as measured by commuting to work) with the urban core.”
Govalytics found that the top five public safety spenders of its top 25 cities in 2012 were:
City                                        Spending
New York                               $17,077,117,000
Los Angeles County               $6,608,319,000
Los Angeles City                    $2,707,892,000
Washington D.C.                    $1,490,423,000
Houston                                 $1,432,000,000
When public safety spending is looked at on a per-capita basis, New York is far and away the biggest spender, at $2,048 per person – almost three times as much as second place Los Angeles (city), which spends $701. The average public safety spending for the top 5 municipalities in 2012 was $1,286.69.
But has all this spending paid off? NYPD statistics seem to say yes. The Wall Street Journal reports that as of Dec. 23, 2012, there were 414 recorded homicides in the city that year, an 18.5 percent drop from 2011. Overall crime in Los Angeles has also declined, to the point where it now has the lowest crime rate in the country for cities with populations over 2 million, according to the New York Daily News.
The cities spending the least on public safety in 2012 were:
Cities                                        Spending
Harper Woods, Mich.              $437,990
Castle Pines, Colo.                  $667,994
Stockbridge, Ga.                     $775,000
Waconia, Minn.                       $1,163,868
Southgate, Mich.                     $1,290,321
The average per-capita public safety spending for these five cities in 2012 was $54.16. Additionally, the bottom five cities’ populations are significantly smaller than the top five’s (closer to 20,000 as opposed to around 1 million.)
In interpreting the data, Ben Walker, director of brand management for Govalytics said, “In considering fluctuating variables such as jurisdiction, population, threat from natural disasters, current crime rates and prison occupancy, the decision-makers within the Public Safety departments across the nation have a challenging time every year with establishing their yearly budgets.” He added, “Typically, you would hope that the level of funding of these expenditures would have a direct correlation with crime levels, however the nature of the aforementioned fluctuating variables makes this task difficult.”

Govalytics, a sales and marketing tool for companies looking to work with local governments, uses MSA data to benchmark municipal spending in various capacities. Using the tool, public spending data for the top 25 MSAs “can help decision makers see what has been successful for other governments of their size across the nation,” according to Walker.


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