Million dollar blocks

An innovative analysis by Eric Cadora highlights "million-dollar blocks" — individual city blocks where more than one million dollars per block per year are spent to incarcerate individuals from that block.  Some blocks cost over five million dollars per year…A million dollars, coincidentally, is roughly what it would cost to pay for one patrol officer, twenty-four hours a day, every day for one year.

That is from Peter Moskos’s Cop in the Hood: My Year Spent Policing Baltimore’s Eastern District.  In Brooklyn of 2003, there were 35 million dollar blocks.  Here is more information, plus maps and graphs.


"A million dollars, coincidentally, is roughly what it would cost to pay for one patrol officer, twenty-four hours a day, every day for one year."

A patrol officer costs $114/hour?

Incidentally, there's a fairly excellent interview with Moskos here.

One cop on the street 24/7 comes out to about 4.2 FTE's, not counting vacations, holidays, sick time, etc. So let's round up by a generous 0.8 FTE for that coverage (about 40 weeks/year) to 5.0 FTE's, just to make the numbers nice. Now let's double that - 10 FTE's. That comes out to $100,000 per cop, which is a lot more than most of the cops I know make.

In the engineering world, the broad-brush first-pass estimate for total personnel-related operating costs is salary times two.

Brownsville and East New York are still pretty rough. These days some parts of Bed-Stuy are better known for Brownstones costing almost a million.

I took a look at Cadora's maps. Some of the "blocks" with the highest incarceration costs were actually housing projects, or complexes of high rises, meaning that they had significantly higher populations than a typical city block. I think it would take more than one patrol officer to effectively police a housing project of 20 or 30 high-rises, so the author's calculus is a little bit disingenuous.

"million-dollar blocks" -- individual city blocks where more than one million dollars per block "per year" are spent to incarcerate individuals from that block.

"In Brooklyn last year, there were 35 blocks that fit this category -- ones where so many residents were sent to state prison that the total cost of their incarceration will be more than $1 million."

According to the article, "million dollar blocks" refer to areas where the "total" cost of residents' imprisonment calculated for the entire length of their stay exceeds one million dollars. In your header, you state one million per block per year. Judging from the author's example that one block containing fiver prisoners (@30,000 per prisoner per year) is a million dollar block, I think your header might be a lit bit misleading

It seems that a complementary good to mr. Mosko's book is "The Wire" - a TV series set in Baltmore and in one instance making the exact same point about patrols.

I'm willing to buy the estimate of $1 million for a 24 hour patrol.

I am also willing to buy that such a patrol would be a superior investment to incarceration.

What I am not willing to buy is the implication that providing such a patrol would cut incarceration from the block to zero.

If you add more cops, you get more arrests and incarcerations.

Good point on the state paying versus the locals paying. Maybe the cops should have to pay for the incarcerations.

"My million-dollar figure is a very rough estimate, but Grant is basically right. Salary is just part of the expense of a police officer. Benefits, equipment, training, overhead. They all add up."

I was skeptical so I decided to look up the cost (per hour) for a private armed bodyguard. That should factor in all those costs. Looks like it runs about $75-125/hour, so I guess your figure could be seen as reasonable in that sense.

On the other hand, I happen to have done some accounting work for a homeowners association which hires off-duty state police officers to patrol their neighborhood and give tickets to traffic violators, and they pay a lot less. IIRC, they pay about $25/hour, and gave them 1099s at the end of the year. I'll have to look it up...

Ah, here's Tampa's Extra Duty Program. "The Tampa Police Department provides a supplementary service to the public by allowing uniformed officers to engage in extra duty police work. This may include police officers assigned to special events, traffic control at constructions sites, or special escorts." $32/hour base rate per officer. $38/hour for "holiday/special event". Includes workers comp and administrative fee. $10 vehicle/equipment fee. I bet you could hire out an officer 24/7 to patrol your block for under half a million a year. But maybe the City of Tampa is losing money on this deal.

What’s an “FTE†?

Bartman (and others) is right. I’m kind of assuming a $50,000 base pay and another $50,000 per officer for other expenses.
bkguy, I think you have a very good point. The money comes from different agencies. So what saves money for one may not save money for another. But as taxpayers, we should be able to see the big picture and demand better bang for the buck.

S.C. Public Defender, you’re very right. Perhaps the projects do distort the concept of “block.†

DK, I see your point: the cost isn’t for year, but as estimate of the total cost. Like Jüri Saar says, remember, this is just for people sentences in one year. So next year, it may be the same.

Loki on the run, I think you’re really on to something. If police departments were given the budget for prisons, I think that would lead to good things (and less imprisonment and more pay for cops).

Andrew, thanks for looking those things up. Keep us informed....

(or Employee...)

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