Extra police on the beat will more likely reduce crime rates through prevention rather than increased arrest rates, according to a new study from the state's crime research body.
The Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) released its findings in a report titled 'The effect of police on crime and arrests: Are police deterring or incapacitating criminals?' on Thursday.
The data was compiled in a study that began in the lead-up to the 2003 NSW election when there was a 7.2 per cent increase in the number of officers employed in the state's police force - about 10 extra per police district.
The study found that a one per cent increase in officer numbers led to just less than a one per cent drop in thefts and a 1.1 per cent decrease in car thefts, but no change in arrest rate, which showed the changes were "driven by deterrence rather than incapacitation".
The report's author Steve Yeong wrote that deterrence was "generally considered favourable to incapacitation given the social and economic costs associated with incarcerating an individual".
"The implications of the present study are threefold," he wrote.
"First, an increase in police numbers generates a substantial reduction in property crime.
"Second, an increase in police numbers has no significant effect on the arrest rate for property crime.
"Finally, the cost of an additional police officer is almost definitely offset by the benefit she provides to society in the form of crime reduction."
The Police Association of NSW has said publicly in recent months that Hunter region police were "reaching breaking point" because of a high staff vacancy rate.
The Newcastle Herald reported in September there were 24 unfilled positions in Northern Region One - which included six police districts on the Hunter and Central Coast.
Police Association of NSW Northern Region One executive Ian Allwood said lifting police numbers would "increase community confidence".
"The ability of the police to target specific offenders and to ultimately reduce crime is aided by those extra numbers," he said.
BOCSAR's acting executive director Jackie Fitzgerald said the results released this week supported evidence collected overseas that found employing extra police officers reduced crime.
"The offending landscape in 2019 is very different to that of 15 years ago," she said.