On Sept. 22, the House passed the Invest to Protect Act of 2022, a bipartisan bill that allocates $60 million a year for five years to local police departments across the United States. The United States already spends over $120 billion on policing—more money than most other countries invest in their military.
The communities with the highest rates of crime and violence are historically our most underinvested neighborhoods.
These increases in police spending are ostensibly supposed to make our communities safer, but there is little to no evidence that this meaningfully reduces crime and violence. Instead, such funding promotes over-policing in Black and brown low-income communities without addressing the deep-rooted social issues—like poverty, mental illness, addiction, and generational trauma—that contribute to crime and violence. We cannot make our communities safer until we address these root causes of crime.
The communities with the highest rates of crime and violence are historically our most underinvested neighborhoods. These neighborhoods, typically Black and Brown, have endured generations of underfunded schools, limited economic opportunity, food insecurity, and a lack of access to health care services like mental health or addiction treatment.
The financial, emotional, and mental strain of living in underinvested communities contributes to crime and violence because people have limited opportunities to provide for themselves and their families.
There is a desperate need for vital community resources, not more police.
There is a desperate need for vital community resources, not more police. In 2020, during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States spent more on law enforcement than on cash welfare. Likewise in 2021, the United States’ largest cities spent more on law enforcement than on healthcare.
To make matters worse, the pandemic and nationwide rent increases have only exacerbated these conditions. The idea that increasing police spending can reduce crime and violence is a gross misunderstanding of how generations of disinvestment impact communities.
Instead, lawmakers should be committed to investing in communities as a way to advance safety. This includes affordable housing, job and workforce training, mental health care, addiction treatment, and youth programs. These resources address the deep-rooted social issues that increase crime and violence. A 2017 New York University study of over 200 U.S. cities over a 23-year-period found that community nonprofits significantly decrease murder, violent crime, and property crime rates.
We can also create safer communities by supporting programs that reduce poverty. One key opportunity lies in the possible expansion of the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
Decades of failed policing efforts have proven that investing in community resources is the key to decreasing crime and violence rates, so why do our lawmakers keep supporting bills like the Invest to Protect Act of 2022? It is time we re-evaluate what it means to make our communities safer.