Letter: One big police department would cost more, study says

The Editor,

Re. "Metro needs regional police, fire services" (Letters, The Tri-City News, Jan. 16).

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In the referenced letter to the editor, the writer attempts to make the case for a regional police and fire service to serve the municipalities across the Metro Vancouver area, arguing that such forces would reduce duplication and result in costs savings, thus reducing the burden on taxpayers who pay for those essential services. The letter writer cites Toronto as an example for Metro Vancouver to follow.

Unfortunately, empirical evidence and academic study have largely debunked the myth that consolidation of those services necessarily results in costs savings. In particular, in a 2013 paper for the University of Toronto’s Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance, the authors used the 1998 amalgamation of the city of Toronto as a case study and found that the per-household expenditures for fire services clearly increased after amalgamation.

In that paper, the authors reviewed several other studies that found that economies of scale do not result from the merger of police and fire services in larger cities because those services often exhibit what economists call “U-shaped cost curves,” which is when the average cost initially declines as the population served increases but then increases after a certain population figure. Those studies revealed that cost minimization was achieved when the fire and police services served a population between 20,000 and 45,000 but, thereafter, costs per-household actually increased as the population served grew larger.

Accordingly, the central argument made by the letter writer that a consolidation of police and fire services would result in costs savings is flawed. Moreover, the consolidation of such services would cause a real concern about whether individual communities would continue to receive the high level of services to which they are accustomed.

As a resident of Port Moody, I believe Port Moody Police Department and Port Moody Fire Rescue excellently serve the community in providing essential emergency services of a very high calibre. They are also an integral part of the community because of their involvement in many community events.

Keeping these services unconsolidated ensures those departments remain accountable to the community for both their financial expenditures and continuing the high level of service the residents have come to depend upon.

Matthew Turnell, Port Moody

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