The idea of a police housing incentive program is gaining traction across the country as a means to deter crime, improve community relations, stabilize neighborhoods and serve as a recruitment incentive, all while potentially avoiding the need to tap city finances.
The idea is fairly straightforward: an organization-the city, a foundation, a nonprofit-teams up with a police department to offer a financial incentive for police officers to live in the city, often in a particular neighborhood. The financial assistance can come in the form of a forgivable loan or cash for a down payment for purchasing a home. Some programs offer cash incentives to rent in a specific area of town.
A handful of studies suggest that increasing police presence through a housing incentive program can serve as a crime deterrent for two reasons. The first is higher visibility. The physical presence of an officer living on the block makes criminals wary of committing a crime in the immediate area, especially if that officer is allowed to bring their squad car home. Residents may also be more comfortable sharing information with an officer if they are also their neighbor. Having an officer integrated into a neighborhood helps forge positive relationships with the community that may otherwise never interact with law enforcement unless reporting a crime. Also, more officers make people feel safer and increases their overall satisfaction and trust with their police department.
Such efforts could also help bolster police officer recruitment and retention. A recent report by the City's Management Analyst recommended the City explore alternative financial incentive programs to help bolster police recruitment and retention efforts in an ever-challenged applicant market.
Moreover, the most recent citizen satisfaction survey for the City of Independence found that the public safety services that residents thought were most important for the City to emphasize over the next two years were (1) police efforts to reduce crime and disorder (52%); (2) City's efforts to prevent crime (41%); and (3) police presence in neighborhoods (36%).
Approval of this resolution would direct the City Manager to explore best practices in other cities who have established similar programs and make recommendations for potential program parameters for Independence by August 2018.