Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Comstat Works

Comstat—sometimes referred to as Compstat—policing, blogged on before, which grew out of the broken windows theory of policing, works; and this story from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reveals its continued success.

An excerpt.

“As recently as three years ago, Milwaukee police officials were analyzing crime trends by reading printed incident reports and sticking pushpins representing weeks-old crimes into maps.

“On a recent Monday morning, however, members of the department's command staff gathered at their daily meeting and - using laptop computers and wall-mounted flat-screen TVs - reviewed interactive maps tracking crimes that had occurred just hours earlier.

“Those maps are available to officers in squad cars and department leaders alike. When combined with data on the activity of officers, from traffic stops to arrests, it provides a picture of how well crime-fighting strategies are being executed - and working.

“Department officials say a new commitment to technology is a key factor behind police statistics that show a 40.2% drop in reported violent crime in Milwaukee for the first quarter of 2010 when compared with the first quarter three years ago.

"We weren't being proactive," Assistant Police Chief James Harpole said. "We were being reactive to the data. Today, we try to get out in front of the data."

“The shift came rapidly for a department that historically has struggled to keep up with new technology.

“Within the last five years, previous computer systems meant to identify problematic officers and track crime both failed to work properly. The department is still wrestling with a digital radio system that became operational about five years later than projected, has run nearly $3 million over budget and is still generating complaints.”