We Need More Police Patrols!


In my “News Flash: Nobody Crashed on The Antelope Valley Freeway” entry, I mentioned a single episode where a multi-car accident could be the catalyst for drastic measures in highway control.  The first of these measures to “fix” the crash crisis would be to add more police patrols on the freeway.

We Need More Police Patrols!

At what cost?  Contrary to popular belief, police are not free protection.  So, in order to have more police patrols on the Antelope Valley Freeway, we have several considerations.

1. We could hire more officers and buy more motorcycles or cars, equipment, guns and ammo.  Just how much does a single added officer cost per year?  Well, after reading this OC register article, I will estimate the annual cost to be at least $120K per year in Southern California (and this is a modest estimate…it does not include the top-end estimate of health care, retirement, education “bennies,” which of course the officer would receive).  But that is just salary.  Let’s not forget the vehicle cost, uniforms, ammo and gun.  The cost of a good police car would be at least $35,000 according to this yahoo discussion (maybe higher according to this piece) and the annual operating costs would be in the thousands.

Of course, the vehicle could always be confiscated through the drug war.  You know, that never ending war on people who wish to put things into their own bodies by people who know better than they do.  However, don’t be fooled.  In a monetary sense only, a confiscated vehicle certainly is not free.  Imagine the cost of the operation that obtained the vehicle.  How many man-hours?  Oops, I digress.

police cars

2. Instead of adding to the force, we could divert police resources to the highway.  This, of course is the lesser of 2 evils since this would be cheaper.  However, in the fantasy world of public opinion, it means less officers out there to deter “violent criminals.”  In reality, this actually means less officers to collect the bodies and assess the damages of crimes after the fact, so maybe it would be a better use for the officers.  Also, it would remove them from the previously mentioned “drug war” (a bulk of their workload, but probably less than traffic management), so they can collect fines from traffic violators instead:  six of one, half a dozen of the other.

Two considerations that nobody ever talks about:

1. How effective would more police be in resolving this traffic crisis?  I will keep this short.  Nobody ever does a results-based examination to tell if more police would really “help” in this situation.  Of course, in my hypothetical example there really wasn’t a problem.  It was simply a one-time tragic event that was not indicative of a trend.  The call for more police was simply a knee-jerk reaction, and the government is all too ready to respond with more taxes, more control, and questionable efficacy.  This is a micro example of the larger problem of the State.  Eventually, maybe years later, those extra officers will be diverted elsewhere (probably to the drug war…hee hee).

2. What is the impact on your personal liberty?  Very few ever consider the impact of having more armed employees of the State.  Not only do they suck away private capital and resources (the real source of innovation), but now the State increases its ability to reach out and touch you with it’s increasing monopoly on violence.  Because of calls to fix a non-problem, the State gradually usurps more power from you.

So what do you think about having more police patrols on the highway?


News Flash: Nobody Crashed on The Antelope Valley Freeway


Here is a thought that occurs to me when I drive along a busy highway.  In fact, my most vivid memory of having this thought is from driving down the Antelope Valley Freeway from Palmdale toward Burbank airport.  You can use Google’s street view tools to view this stretch of highway.  The street view of this stretch of road does not do it justice, as it shows a LOT less traffic.  Instead, picture bumper to bumper cars traveling at 80 miles per hour for miles.  I would be driving in this rat race, which happens every day, listening to my radio when all of a sudden I thought to myself, “There are thousands of cars within inches of each other hurling down this freeway at breakneck pace, and the majority of the time nobody hits anybody.”  You see the amazing thing (some might say miraculous), is not when someone gets into an accident and survives.  On the contrary, the truly marvelous thing are the accidents that never happen.  80 MPH, and all actions are coordinated.  There is nobody directing; there are thousands of independent thinkers cooperating to not hit each other.  There are mistakes, sure, but 99% of the time (or better) the ballet continues with no mishaps.  Everybody gets where they are going…every day!  Simply amazing!  Essentially, nothing happens as a result of this activity.

traffic at night

Yet, I can still picture a tragic pile up or a multi-vehicle and fatal accident on this stretch of highway that would elicit calls for action.  These calls might sound something like this:

  1. We need more police patrols!
  2. We must lower the speed limits!
  3. We need higher traffic fines.
  4. Let’s tax fuel to reduce traffic.
  5. If we build a monorail between Palmdale and Burbank, it will reduce traffic.

It certainly is possible that such actions might have some effect on the accident rate on the Antelope Valley Freeway.  The question, however, is how much effect?  Moreover, what are the third order and beyond effects on individual liberties, and your freedom to travel?  What about the cost?  What about the opportunity cost?  What about unintended consequences?

I will address each of these “calls for a cure” in turn…starting in my next post.