How many "cops on the beat" are there in the...

JUST EXACTLY

August 22, 1994|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

JUST EXACTLY how many "cops on the beat" are there in the crime bill? 100,000? 20,000? 800,000?

President Clinton and his supporters in Congress say 100,000. But that assumes state and local governments will pick up most of the tab for new hires over the next five years.

Professor John J. DiIulio Jr. of Princeton says 20,000. I assume he arrived at that figure by dividing $75,000 (which is about the cost to put one cop on a big city beat for a year) into the expected average appropriation total over the next five years of about $1.5 billion a year.

The New York Times says 800,000. It editorialized: "The bill's core, provision for 800,000 new police officers to help control crime in American cities, remains the most important goal." Actually I think that's a failure of communications. "1" and "8" are too far apart on the keyboard for it to be a simple typo. My theory is that editorial page editor Howell Raines, who is from Alabama, phoned in the editorial to a native Nu Yawker who thought Raines' "ay hunnerd thousen" was "eight hundred thousand."

Professor DiIulio believes the cops on the beat money is going to be spread out very thin among many cities, towns and counties. I'm sure he's right. That 20,000 new cops amounts to slightly less than a 4 percent increase in the number of all full-time police in the U.S. Increasing police forces by 4 percent is no way to fight a crime wave.

DiIulio proposes a "20,000 Cops for 20 Big Cities Act." He has written, "The nation's 20 largest cities have the worst crime problems. If there is a national priority here, then the federal dollars for policing should go to them and only to them."

Ay-men. According to FBI statistics, the 10 most populous cities have about 90,000 uniformed officers. Adding 20,000 would increase the forces by 22 percent. For Baltimore that would mean 660 new cops on the beats. I think that would take a big bite out of crime.

I don't know anything about DiIulio's politics, but since he occasionally writes for the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, I guess he's suspect as a right winger of sorts. (I say that even though I have written for that page.) But even liberals are alarmed about the crime picture in this country.

Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts is about as liberal as you can get -- a 100 percent "liberal quotient" on the Americans for Democratic Action's voting score card. He told President Clinton that 100,000 more cops would be no more than "a down payment on what we will need." He said that with that number it would take "a generation" to solve the crime problem. He said "at least several hundred thousand [new officers] are needed additionally and quickly." (Maybe he wrote the Times editorial.)

So everybody's getting scared. I know I am. If we don't do something pretty dramatic, well, will the last person who moves from Guilford to Ruxton please turn out the lights?

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