The following are taken mostly from a comment I wrote to this post.
The Kansas City Preventative Patrol experiment is the most amazingly ignored police study ever. For police and crime prevention, it’s one of the few scientific studies ever (meaning there was actually a control group). It showed that a post with no “randomly patrolling” cars has no more crime than a post with twice as many cars. Cars don’t matter. Cops only need to be in cars to backup other police officers. Almost everything else could be done by foot and bike.
And yet the Kansas City study changed nothing. It’s ignored because police officers like cars and the police department is tied to radio dispatch. Culturally, it’s almost impossible to get police out of cars. Policing on foot is hard work. It’s usually punishment. So even cops who liked foot patrol, like me, didn’t want to do it.
In cars you can stay dry and warm (or cool) and listen to the radio. You can also more easily avoid crazy and stinky people that want to talk to you. Why do you think police hang out in cars in the back of remote parking lots?
People don’t feel safer with more police cars driving around (or sitting in parking lots) Putting more cops on foot *does* make people safer. See the Newark Foot Patrol Experiment (Police Foundation 1981) and common sense. It’s very debatable if foot patrol reduces crime. I think it does. But I may be wrong. But if people want more foot patrol (and they do), why not give it to them?
When patrol cars first hit the street, cars were supposed to save money (and oh yeah, eliminate crime). That didn’t happen. More foot patrol is not a matter of needing resources; it’s a matter of priorities and will. It’s not the citizens or the politicians who want car patrol, it’s the police.
My idea to get police officers out of cars is to give patrol officers, if they patrol on foot, the gas money they saved. Police model Crown Vics go through about 3/4 of a gas tank per shift. Cops don’t want to walk the beat, but $30 per shift could change that.