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Lethbridge spends more on cops, sees more crime

Despite spending more on salaries and benefits in 2020, Lethbridge Police Service received more calls for services and charged more people with crime.

I was recently reviewing annual reports for the Lethbridge Police Service when I noticed a few things.

Here is a look at how much LPS spent on wages and benefits for the 3 most recent years (the 2021 annual report isn’t out yet) plus the number of cops for each year.

Wages & benefits# of copsWages per
# of cops
2018$31,210,000161$193,850.93
2019$33,700,000168$200,595.24
2020$34,400,000166$207,228.92

Now, keep in mind that wages aren’t spend on just cops. LPS also employs over 50 civilians. So the final column is a ratio metric; it doesn’t represent the average wage of each cop.

That being said, what we clearly see is that how much LPS spends on wages and benefits, relative to the number of cops they have, increased in both 2019 and 2020, rising by 3.48% and 3.31% respectively.

And you’ll notice how much LPS spent in 2020 increased despite, technically, having fewer cops.

Not only that, but they had fewer civilian workers that year, too. In 2019, LPS employed 74 civilian workers, but by 2020, they had reduced that number by 9. The number of civilian workers dropped by 12.16%, but the number of cops dropped by only 1.19%

So that increase can’t be attributed to hiring more civilian workers.

So, since the LPS was spending more in salaries and benefits relative to the number of cops they had, surely that means we saw less crime, right?

Well, let’s look at call for service.

Calls for service# of copsCalls per cop
201834,610161214.97
201935,993168214.24
202036,667166220.89

Well, calls for service didn’t go down. I mean, it kind of did in 2019, but just barely (0.3%), but it increased by 3.1% the following year. And that’s even though they spend more money relative to the number of cops they had that year.

Remember, however, that calls for services doesn’t necessarily equate with crime. It’s just every time someone phones the cops about something. It could be a break in or assault, sure, but it could also be someone complaining that someone is in an area of the city they don’t think they should be in.

So, let’s look at criminal charges then.

The 2018 annual report didn’t include a summary of the total number of Criminal Code charges in Lethbridge, but the 2019 and 2020 annual reports do.

In 2019, Lethbridge cops laid 10,505 Criminal Code charges. That increased 5.45% to 11,078 the following year.

To be clear, this represents only those crimes that people were arrested for. So, the number of crimes committed could be even higher. Plus, not ever charge leads to sentencing; some charges are eventually dropped during trial.

Nevertheless, it’s clear that the number of charges laid increased between 2019 and 2020, despite LPS spending more on salaries, relative to the number of cops they have.

However, there is one big disclaimer with this.

One or two years is a pretty small sample size, so it’s difficult to see if this is part of a trend or just anomaly. I would’ve loved to have explored a longer period of data, but I couldn’t locate any annual reports older than 2018.

So, while the LPS spent more on salaries and wages and Lethbridge saw more crime, it’s possible it could just be an anomaly.

And to be clear, I’m not saying that paying cops more leads to more crime. I’m saying that paying cops more doesn’t seem to make a difference.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news stories, focusing on politics and labour.

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