Helicopters and the Budget

Posted by cbbrowne
Mar 09 2010

The city of Indianapolis recently announced that they were cancelling use of police helicopters, to save $1.4-ish millions.

Locals complained that this is terrible and demonstrates that the city does not care about public safety.

I suggest that this is not nearly as obvious as it might seem.

By all means, helicopters are “sexy”, but that certainly isn’t good enough to justify it!

Helicopters can help solve some specific problems quickly, but there are perhaps three metrics by which they mayn’t actually be worthwhile.

  • Do they solve more crimes? If not, then that is a strike against choppers.
  • Do they merely catch some perps more quickly. Is faster truly worth the money? Do faster catches save them from extra crimes being committed? That may be nice for would-be victims… How does it actually affect the budget?
  • What would be the expected outcome from the addition or loss of the equivalent money spent on cops on the ground?

After all, it may be that a dozen extra guys (and ladies) walking or driving beats, 8 hours a day, 200-some days per year, may do more good than an aircraft sprinting around for a couple hours a day.

The answers are in the details…

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