How do you cut a police budget? Very carefully …

Here’s some free advice for cities considering cutting their police forces: Slice carefully.
Crime rates are dropping in most Canadian cities. The shift has been slower in some prairie cities, like Edmonton, Regina and Winnipeg. Yet even in these cases, the overall number of crimes is gradually coming down. There’s a similar trend in the United States, where crime rates are down to 40- or 50-year lows in many areas.

In Canadian cities where this trend is clearest — like Calgary and Toronto — pundits and politicians are now calling for major cuts to local police budgets to take advantage of the lower crime rate. It doesn’t help that policing is the highest single cost in almost every city’s budget.

There’s even talk about police cuts in Winnipeg, a city that often leads the nation with its arson, murder or violent crime rates. Rumours are swirling about a confidential study commissioned by Winnipeg’s city council. The report supposedly recommends shutting down the vice squad and other special units (although the city’s controversial helicopter doesn’t seem to be on the chopping block). If you’re cutting cops “because the crime rate is lower,” it’s important to ask how the crime rate got lower in the first place.

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