Honors College Theses

Publication Date



Criminal Justice and Criminology (B.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Faculty Mentor

Dawson, Akiv


The notion of defunding the police remains a hot-button political topic since the protests of Summer 2020. The forefront of the debate concerns how defunding the police will impact crime rates. Still, the topic has scarcely been investigated empirically. This thesis provides an early examination into the relationship between "defunding the police", reallocating funding, and crime rates in Savannah, Ga. Several experiments are performed to answer three research questions that involve comparing and manipulating the budget provided for policing and the budgets for neighborhood vitality and poverty reduction. The findings show that Savannah allocates significantly more money to the policing budget than the budgets for neighborhood vitality or poverty reduction. However, increased funding for policing did not have a significant impact on the property, violent, or overall crime indexes in any models. On the other hand, increases in the budget for poverty reduction are associated with significant decreases in Savannah's violent crime rate.

Thesis Summary

Recent calls to defund police highlight the relations between law enforcement and the communities they serve. At the center of the debate is concerns over how communities can respond to crime without the police. . The foundation of the debate is staunch disagreement about what best controls crime. Proponents of defunding the police maintain that crime is the result of inequality in the broader sense and therefore more spending on community investment should be the priority of local governments who are interested in crime control. Opponents of defunding the police argue that strong well-funded police departments are necessary to control crime and protect community members.

The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of defunding the police on crime in a major U.S. city. The current inquiry uses Savannah as a case study to understand whether defunding the police is a viable option. The results of the study suggest that defunding the police is “more than a snappy slogan”. Taking money from the policing budget and reinvesting it back into communities may have a positive effect on crime.