Richmond's ratio of public safety employees to residents is among the highest in the United States, according to a study by NerdWallet, a consumer advocacy website. Richmond has 45 police officers and 20 firefighters for every 10,000 residents, putting it in 20th place in the nation. Washington, D.C., with 68 police officers per 10,000 residents, took the top spot on the list.
The study examined public-safety spending in cities with a population of at least 100,000 people. "Richmond's investment is very high for the size of its population," says Chris Rein, an analyst with NerdWallet.
The report explores how major cities are coping with an increasing demand for services amid dwindling budget allocations. Richmond allocated $182.7 million for public safety and judiciary services, according to its 2012 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. Rein says that is roughly 20 percent of the city's entire fiscal budget.
So does a high per-capita investment in police and fire personnel lead to corresponding reductions in violent crimes and arson? The answer: Maybe. Rein says that kind of analysis tends to oversimplify a complex problem.
"I do think that crime rates would be higher in some of these cities if there were less police staff," Rein says. "Having more police staff allows departments to have a more proactive approach on crime prevention through community policing. But there are a lot of issues specific to each city at play."
Recent FBI statistics for Richmond show a 6 percent jump in violent crime, from 575 incidents reported in Richmond in 2012 to 610 in 2013, according to the organization's Uniform Crime Report for Virginia. So while top-20 recognition is interesting, for now at least, violent crime remains an inveterate plague.