The 10 States with the Most Overworked Police Officers

Written by | Updated April 12, 2019

Police officers have a serious job to do—keep society safe by enforcing our laws.

With increasingly complex problems to respond to—from active shooters, racial tensions, and civil unrest to opioid overdoses and more frequent and severe natural disasters—policing continues to be one of the toughest jobs out there.

However, most states only have one to three police officers per 1,000 civilians. That’s a lot of people for only a few sets of eyes and ears. This got us thinking about which states have the most crimes per officer and therefore, the busiest policemen and women.

While there are a lot factors that can impact crime rates—police tactics, poverty levels, etc.—the purpose of this study is to demonstrate the hefty workload American police officers have on their plates each year. Below, you’ll find the 10 busiest states for officers when it comes to handling a large load of both violent and property crimes.

Top 10 States with the Most Overworked Police Officers

RankStateCrimes per OfficerOfficers per 1,000 PeopleState Poverty Level
1New Mexico33.642.8718.7%
2Alabama32.422.1915.8%
3Mississippi31.242.5019.5%
4Alaska25.931.6912.1%
5Indiana24.092.2012.3%
6Washington24.031.4510.7%
7Ohio23.532.0013.3%
8South Carolina22.202.3314.6%
9Oregon20.011.6611.3%
10Texas19.442.0614%

Notable Findings

Crime is a very complex topic; it’s incredibly difficult to isolate one single cause, and even more difficult to identify how different factors contribute to the whole. While this data is only the tip of the iceberg, providing a glimpse into a bigger civic and social issue, we were able to uncover some notable findings during the study:

  • Although Oregon‘s police officers are among the most overworked in the nation, the Beaver State ranks second to last for total crimes per capita.1
  • Poverty has a positive correlation with crime. Six out of the top ten states with the most overworked police officers have a poverty rate above the national average of 12.8%.2
  • In states with large numbers of people living below the poverty line, property crimes tend to be higher. For example, Mississippi has the lowest median income level in the country and ranks fifth for the most property crimes per capita.3 However, they rank among the states with the lowest violent crime rates in the country.
  • On the other hand, New Mexico, which has the third-highest poverty rate in the country, ranks first for property crimes and third for violent crimes per capita.
  • Only 40% of the states with the most overworked police officers rank in the top 10 for high violent crime rates: Alaska, New Mexico, Alabama, and South Carolina. And three out of the four also have high poverty rates. Alaska is the exception, with a poverty rate just below the national average.
  • Population density tends to reduce crime rather than increase it. Half of the states with the least overworked cops have the highest levels of population density. For example, New Jersey has the highest population density in the US and one of the highest officer to crime ratios. They also have one of the lowest crime rates in the country for both violent and property crimes.
  • However, Maryland and Delaware don’t follow this tendency. While they rank fifth and sixth respectively for population density, they also have higher officer to crime ratios. But they both have high violent and property crime rates well above national averages.

Top 10 States with the Least Overworked Police Officers

RankStateCrimes per OfficerOfficers per 1,000 PeopleState Poverty Level
1Kansas2.942.4913.4%
2New Jersey5.133.609.7%
3New York5.953.2813.2%
4Massachusetts7.462.6010.6%
5New Hampshire7.682.206.7%
6Vermont8.361.9510.2%
7Rhode Island8.392.3611.8%
8Virginia8.902.2510.8%
9Connecticut9.132.199.9%
10Maine9.371.7412.3%

It’s Not Easy Being Blue

Policing tactics are a big part of the crime rate discussion, but with a decentralized US policing system (18,000 individual police departments), it can be challenging to implement evidence-based solutions that fit the needs of every community.4

The day in the life of a police officer isn’t easy. They have to manage dangerous situations, keep the peace, rescue people in distress, and help traffic flow smoothly. If you ever wondered what it takes to be in law enforcement, the statistics we highlighted only begin to scratch the surface.

Methodology

SafeWise analyzed the most recent FBI crime statistics and Census population data to determine the states with the most and least overworked police officers. We first looked at states with the highest officer to crime ratios, then which states had lowest number of officers per 1,000 people. We then analyzed Census state demographics to identify trends and correlations.

Written by Caroline Maurer

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