Public safety is easily the largest spending category in city budgets. An Ohio Mayors Alliance survey of member city budgets in early 2022 showed that OMA cities spend, on average, more than half of their revenue on public safety. And over the past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has created new challenges for cities. The American Rescue Plan’s State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (SLFRF) could not have come at a better time to give cities some flexibility in addressing these challenges.
Ohio Mayors Alliance cities are using ARP funds to address public safety and reduce gun violence. The common thread among these examples is a focus on holistic thinking about how residents, business owners, first responders, schools, and health care providers can work together to keep communities and neighborhoods safe.
Akron Mayor Daniel Horrigan’s five point framework to address community violence is a holistic approach to community violence reduction that focuses on supporting first responders, engaging the community, and preventing violence before it starts. Results are still pending, but early data are extremely promising, with a huge decrease in homicides in Akron at the end of 2021.
Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz traveled to the White House in May 2022 to talk about how the City of Toledo is using ARP funds to bolster public safety. The mayor discussed using ARP funds to hire needed police officers and firefighters, invest in community-based violence protection strategies, and fund summer and afterschool programming for city youth.
As we detailed in our 2021 ARP report, OMA cities have allocated over $190 million in ARP funds to public safety initiatives. In addition to Toledo, Columbus was able to hire new police officers and firefighters thanks to ARP’s budget stabilization funds, and the city of Youngstown has been able to use ARP funds to start up its body-worn camera program. Mayors across the state, including in Cincinnati, Toledo, and Columbus, are also acknowledging the connection between youth supports and programming and violence prevention, investing ARP funds in engaging youth in afterschool and summer programs that improve educational outcomes and reduce opportunities for crime.
Crime is a complex issue that is interconnected with a range of challenges facing our cities — affordable housing, access to health care, business development, and education, for example — and we look forward to continuing to highlight the ways mayors are using federal funding and other resources to improve city residents’ lives.