My hometown of Davenport, Iowa was blessed today by two presidential candidates, immediately accompanied by three bank robberies. Some think these robberies were planned to coincide with the campaigning because the police would be so busy with security.
It’s so appropriate that these robberies took place a couple of days after I repeated Glen Whitman’s two principles of economics (incentives matter and there’s no such thing as a free lunch) because even here, economics can be learned. People not versed in Glen’s first principle might be surprised to learn that initial reports suggest these robberies were independent from one another. In fact, Police Chief Bladel doesn’t think two of the robberies were planned. Individuals, acting on personal knowledge to achieve a given ends, pursued an activity they thought would yield the best results. What a novel idea. Considering the robberies had a 66% success rate thus far (one suspect was captured), they did a pretty good job. As the costs fall, the amount of the activity increases. Incentives matter.
But the second rule is more interesting. According to Lt. Don Gano the extra security measures did not interfere with police coverage because, among other reasons, officers worked overtime. I don’t know what magical world Lt. Gano lives in but when you have fewer police on patrol, the coverage worsens. When you have officers pulling extra shifts to pick up the slack, the quality of each shift inevitably goes down. The police are less alert, less reactive, possibly annoyed and taking frequent breaks for caffeine jumps. While these deficiencies may be a minor problem, when you’re looking for a suspicious-looking vehicle/person or there’s an APB with nothing but a vague description as a lead, that minor problem can make all the difference in the world. Of all people I would think that a police officer would understand that. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.