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Written by Susan Geoghegan
In the mid-1990s, New York City implemented an innovative crime-reduction program that would revolutionize contemporary policing, known as CompStat. Since then, other major cities throughout the United States have replaced the traditional top-down method of policing with CompStat’s system of crime mapping and accountability. While the original program was intended for crime trend analysis in large urban areas, scaled-down variations are currently being used by smaller municipalities. By blending various combinations of report compilation software, mapping programs and accountability strategies, police agencies can design a CompStat “hybrid” that works for them.
Garden City, Kan., Police Department
With a population of almost 30,000 covering an area of 8.5 square miles, Garden City is located in southwestern Kansas, approximately 200 miles from Wichita. The Garden City Police Department’s Operations Division is dedicated to reducing crime and improving the overall quality of life for the community. Four patrol teams, consisting of four sergeants and 32 officers, make up the front line of the department and are responsible for identifying community concerns.
When the GCPD decided to actualize the CompStat philosophy of policing, it needed a flexible, user-friendly software package to successfully implement the new program. According to Chief James Hawkins, “After attending training about CompStat, it sounded like a better (more organized) way to confront issues and keep track of how progress was being made.” The department’s choice was CrimeView, a desktop crime analysis and mapping solution that integrates with CAD and RMS applications.
“Our crime analyst attended training and liked what she saw with CrimeView. It isn’t just a pin map; it also creates reports once the data is input, so it’s an incredible time-saver,” Hawkins said. The company provided complete system setup, as well as training support for department personnel. The application is easy to use and works well with the department’s existing CAD and HTE systems.
The GCPD crime analysts use the gathered statistics from the software to determine crime trends and patterns. Officers, investigators, community leaders and commanders all meet to review the data and plan strategies to address relevant issues and problem areas. Originally held weekly, the meetings are now held monthly to allow lag-time in strategy development (unless crime trends arise that require immediate action).
When asked if implementation of the CompStat-type program has resulted in a reduction in crime, Chief Hawkins could not make a direct correlation. “I cannot equate a reduction in crime with either CrimeView or CompStat, since crime was on the way down when we initiated both,” Hawkins said. He says that “the benefits of using a CompStat-type program lie in its information-sharing and accountability which, for the GCPD, come in the form of recognizing the trend and doing something about it.”
Gardena, Calif., Police Department
In 2005, the Gardena Police Department developed an information-sharing system for crime analysis and mapping. The Gardena Crime Accountability and Reduction Strategy (G-CARS) is a multifaceted approach that uses real-time crime statistics to detect patterns and identify geographic areas that require additional police services. G-CARS is the centerpiece of the city’s Community Policing strategy, which is comprised of several components that include District Policing, Intelligence and Crime Statistics, e-Policing, and community service.
Located in the South Bay area of Los Angeles County, the city of Gardena has an ethically diverse population of 62,000. The police department has 150 employees, 95 of whom are sworn officers. Before development of the G-CARS system, it was difficult for officers in the field to pass along vital information during shift changes. Most of the information was provided by their sergeants in daily briefings, which may not always have been timely or comprehensive.
With G-CARS, information is seamlessly transmitted to all the line personnel, bureaus and command staff. Crime statistics are gathered, analyzed and then disseminated to police personnel via e-mail and in-house Intranet postings. Watch commanders are given printed reports prior to patrol shift deployments that contain crime maps displaying current and 30-day trends. The reports also provide heavy police call-for-service locations, crime descriptor details, and a log where all police employees share pertinent information.
Operations Division Commander Ed Burnett said that the statistical component of G-CARS is unique in that it uses off-the-shelf software to continually disseminate information to police employees. “The system, which conducts round-the-clock database mining, mapping and distribution, was developed for less than $5,000,” Burnett stated.
Heavy emphasis is placed on the use of technology and computer statistics to effectively place police resources where they are needed most. The department focuses its efforts on three identified sources of crime—high-risk people, high-risk places and high-risk activities—to ultimately improve community safety and minimize the resources needed for effective change.
According to Burnett, Gardena’s Chief of Police Edward Medrano was the driving force behind the G-CARS and District Policing concept. Building upon Medrano’s vision, Burnett himself developed the technical aspects of the system and the distribution of information. From there, the command staff worked as a team to promote the program to the rest of the police staff, the community and the city. The result was a strategy that combined technological applications and analysis with aspects of traditional community policing.
Introduced in 2007, Gardena’s District Policing model divides the city into three districts, each managed by a police lieutenant who, in turn, heads up a team of specialized personnel from various bureaus. Patrol officers are the designated contact point for citizen concerns and complaints and are held accountable for the service they provide to their districts.
Working closely with businesses and community groups, district officers organize and facilitate programs, such as Neighborhood Watch groups, to build safer neighborhoods. The Chief of Police Citizen Advisory Panel (COPCAP) is a volunteer group that meets monthly to facilitate communication between the police department and members of the community.
The Gardena Police Department’s redesigned Web site offers a special e-Policing component that was developed to maintain partnerships and share information with the community. It includes an emergency e-mail alert and notification system, a section for reporting suspicious activity, access to crime statistics and maps, and online police reporting. Crimes that are not classified as serious offenses and do not require police response can be filed directly by the victims online, keeping more officers in the field.
Once a week, the command staff meets to assess crime trends within the three districts and develop tactical strategies to effectively deal with them. Burnett pointed out that these meetings are less intense than traditional CompStat meetings in large cities. He does, however, say that “peer pressure, personal accomplishment and motivation play key factors in developing strategies based on crimes and calls for service.”
Shawnee, Kan., Police Department
A western suburb of the Kansas City metropolitan area, Shawnee covers an area of 42.5 square miles and has a population of 61,000. In 2002, the police department implemented its Crime Analysis Directed Enforcement program (CADE), which is based on the information-driven CompStat model. Originally developed by Chief Jim Morgan when he was deputy chief, the system was further refined by the current deputy chief, Major Larry Larimore.
As the department’s crime analyst, Susan Smith stated that the program uses crime and intelligence information to determine the most effective way to allocate its resources. The process begins with the Crime Analyst Unit, which collects, analyzes and maps timely crime information. Once the data is collected, crime in each police district is broken down by the type of crime committed, as well as place and time. Each crime is then further broken down into sub-categories (e.g., violent crimes committed with guns and those without; residential burglaries as opposed to commercial).
According to Smith, the crime analyst meets weekly, or as needed, with commanders to advise of any particular areas of concern in the city that require special attention due to noted trends, patterns, series, sprees or hot spots that warrant special consideration for directed enforcement or investigative efforts.
After the presentation, discussions are held to determine the impact of the information as it relates to the department as a whole. Research studies and data from a variety of law enforcement sources are considered and discussed to arrive at the best solution for each type of crime or disorder. Once the strategies are in place and implemented, ongoing evaluations are done to determine their effectiveness.
Commanders, supervisors, investigators, patrol officers and the crime analyst meet once a month to review the department’s responses to crime or social disorder. Current crime maps and data are presented and compared to those from the previous month, allowing commanders to assess the overall effectiveness of the anti-crime strategies. Following the crime analyst’s presentation, other department personnel share information from their specific area of assignment within the agency.
Smith pointed out that the CADE program, “has allowed the department to become more proactive in its efforts to control crime in the city. It has increased officer awareness and accountability of ranking personnel, and assured that the right hand knows what the left hand is doing at all times.”
Technology plus People
All three of these police departments recognize that a successful CompStat process is achieved by combining technology resources with the human factor. One cannot act independently of the other. While crime-mapping software is necessary to pinpoint problem areas, strategic approaches to reduce crime cannot be developed without analysis, information-sharing and discussion.
The Garden City, Gardena and Shawnee Police Departments each developed their own individual approach to creating safer communities. By doing so, they have shown that the big-city principles of CompStat policing can be effectively shaped to suit the needs of smaller municipalities.
Susan Geoghegan is a freelance writer living in Naples, Fla. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in Law and Order, Mar 2011
Rating : Not Yet Rated
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