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While Crime Fell, the Cost of Cops Soared

America’s policing budget has almost tripled since 1977 to $115 billion.

Police officers by the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge in Brooklyn, N.Y., on May 30.

Police officers by the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge in Brooklyn, N.Y., on May 30.

Photographer: Henry Danner

Over the past four decades, the cost of policing in the U.S. has almost tripled, from $42.3 billion in 1977 to $114.5 billion in 2017, according to an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data conducted by the Urban Institute on behalf of Bloomberg Businessweek.

Despite the rising dollar amounts, policing has consistently made up about 3.7% of state and local budgets since the 1970s. However, crime has been trending downward for years: Violent crime and property crime have fallen significantly since the early 1990s, according to U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics data.