Police Chief William Bratton said Tuesday he will ask the federal government to allocate billions more from the economic stimulus package to law enforcement agencies across the country to combat a potential rise in crime triggered by the worsening economy.
Bratton also noted his department - despite several years of declining crime rates - needs the extra funding to deter terrorism and protect the nation's second largest city if violence from Mexico's drug cartels spills over the border.
"You want to be investing in me instead of Wall Street," Bratton told The Associated Press. "I get a better rate of return."
Bratton said he wants as many as 100,000 extra police officers hired nationwide over three years, at an estimated cost of about $8 billion. The stimulus package currently sets aside about $1 billion to hire 11,000 officers in the coming three years, he said. Bratton said he and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will be in Washington next week hoping to meet with the attorney general and advocate for more funding.
"We're an investment, not a cost," Bratton said of law enforcement. Central to Bratton's request is a belief that effective law enforcement is key to economic recovery. He said a drop in crime in New York in the early 1990s preceded an economic turnaround there and he believed the same could happen on a national scale.
Bratton, in his second term as chief in Los Angeles, has overseen a dropping crime rate for seven straight years. He predicts the trend will continue, and credits the department's strategies of sending extra officers to crime hot spots and holding area commanders accountable for crime spikes.
He said his officers are watching for increases in property crimes, domestic violence and shoplifting, as these traditionally increase in times of economic distress. He also is looking out for violence from Mexico spilling into Los Angeles, including increases in kidnapping or other activities tied to drug cartels.
Other parts of the country are experiencing increasing crime as the economy worsens, Bratton said, and extra stimulus money could go a long way to replicating his department's successes elsewhere. He intends to present his ideas at a panel discussion at a California police chiefs conference Thursday.