Note: this piece was originally published in the Washington Post.
Regarding Megan McArdle’s Oct. 13 Friday Opinion column, “To reduce crime, residents and police need to respect each other”:
Police play a critical role in any city’s public safety plan, but Ms. McArdle’s reductive call for more police as the cure-all to crime in D.C. is misguided. The evidence on whether adding police decreases crime is more mixed than she admits, yet it is clear that policing can result in significant social costs that are similar to the effects of crime.
In a GQR poll commissioned by Vera Action, 56 percent of voters favored a comprehensive approach to public safety — investing in schools, living wages, affordable housing, mental health and drug treatment services, and tackling illegal guns — over a “tough-on-crime” approach.
Simply spending more on police is not the answer to valid, urgent concerns about safety in D.C. Even law enforcement professionals say we cannot expect police to solve every social problem. The District needs a comprehensive approach to prevent crime before it happens, as well as a range of first responders, including mental health and violence interruption specialists. In D.C. and beyond, people understand that making communities safer requires a new approach — not more of the simplistic status quo.
Insha Rahman, New York
The writer is vice president for advocacy and partnerships at the Vera Institute of Justice and director of Vera Action.