The most effective method of policing yet devised in today’s world of exploding crime, very smart criminals, and a largely un-helpful public, has been Compstat, and this article from the Law & Public Order magazine in 2006 reviews the history of its development from New York City in 1997 through its application in other locations up to 2006.
“Eleven years have passed since the New York City police department developed and initiated the CompStat process to fight crime. Since then numerous other cities have instituted similar programs in the hope of replicating New York’s success story. The statistics indicate that CompStat is extremely effective in reducing crime, even though some critics still question the efficacy of these programs.
“CompStat, the program that would revolutionize contemporary policing, was initially created with a small business software package named SmartWare. In the early stages, its primary focus was to track crime trends in order to establish a statistical baseline. Incidents of major crime were counted by hand and then mapped in order to identify clusters of criminal activity. CompStat, as it was named by four NYPD officers, would soon become the crown jewel of the Rudolph Giuliani administration.
“William Bratton, who became Giuliani’s first police commissioner, implemented the CompStat program in 1994. From the beginning, it was hailed as an innovative managerial paradigm in policing and was the winner of a 1996 “Innovations in American Government” award.
“Bratton wanted each precinct to collect crime data, enter it into a computer database, and submit the disk each week to the police commissioner’s office. Every commander was held accountable for the crime activity in his precinct and was required to submit a plan for improvement, if necessary. He assigned deputy commissioner Jack Maple and his startup team to oversee the process.
“The CompStat Process
“CompStat (Computerized Statistics, aka Compare Statistics, aka Computer Comparison Statistics) is a goal-oriented, information-driven management process that stresses both operational strategy and managerial accountability. Its goal is to reduce crime and enhance the community’s quality of life. The CompStat process consists of four components: 1) collection and analysis of crime data, 2) Development of strategy to address problems, 3) Rapid deployment of resources, and 4) Follow-up and accountability.
“The process begins by collecting, analyzing and mapping crime data as it occurs. From this, a report is compiled and forwarded to each precinct’s operational manager. After the statistical trends are reviewed and discussed, it is up to the commander to devise effective tactics to address the problem areas. Subordinates are encouraged to utilize aggressive problem-solving strategies that will result in a reduction in crime.
“Once a plan of action is formulated, commanders must then deploy personnel and resources in a timely manner. This is often the most challenging element of CompStat, due to conflicting work schedules and limited funds for overtime. In most cases, proactive personnel are assigned to the CompStat issues, while the balance of the force attends to daily operations. Finally, the precinct commanders must determine if the intended goals were met and, if not, must come up with alternative strategies to effectively address the problem.
“CompStat and the NYPD
“The New York City Police Department holds bi-weekly CompStat meetings, which have proven to be an effective motivator for precinct commanders. Each commander is required to present an overview of police activity within his command and the strategies for addressing crime and quality of life issues. These briefings provide the commanders an opportunity to impress both their peers and law enforcement executives. This middle-down, middle-up approach is unique to CompStat and emphasizes the importance of accountability.
“Generally, CompStat’s effectiveness in reducing crime has been validated through numerous statistical data since its inception. As of 2003, serious crime in New York City dropped for the 13th consecutive year. This is quite an accomplishment if we consider the demands placed on the NYPD’s law enforcement personnel since 9/11. One specific program, “Operation Impact,” focused on 21 crime zones within the city and resulted in a 40% drop in shootings and other violent crimes.
“Despite these impressive statistics, CompStat has detractors. Some suggest that using New York City as an example of CompStat’s success is unfair. As the largest police department in the country, the NYPD may not be representative of other departments. Questions are still unanswered as to CompStat’s effectiveness in other cities that have adopted the program. Other critics suggest that the NYPD’s reduction in crime cannot be exclusively attributed to CompStat since there has also been a general nationwide drop in crime.
“Progeny of CompStat
“The CompStat model has been adopted in numerous U.S. cities under various acronyms. The Baltimore City Police Department utilizes CRIMESTAC (crime tracking and analysis) while the Indianapolis Police Department has IMAP, short for Integrated Management of Patrol.
“The Lowell, MA Police Department implemented its own crime control program in 1996 and the results have been remarkable. During the first three-year period (1996-1999) violent crimes fell 26.0% and property crimes dropped 35.2%. Lowell was one of the first police departments to receive a federal COPS grant to install laptops in its patrol cars, giving officers instant access to computer-generated crime data.
“While Lowell’s crime-reduction program is patterned after CompStat, the debates that are generated at the bi-monthly meetings are generally more good-natured than the intense interrogations of the New York Police Department. This seems to indicate that negative reinforcement aimed at an underperforming officer is not essential for improvement. Instead, the pressure to improve performance is generated through accurate data pinpointing problems to both commanders and peers.
“Lowell’s success can be attributed to the basic elements of CompStat: up-to-date data, cooperation in developing strategy, flexible allocation of resources, and tireless follow-through. The addition of inter-departmental cooperation, community-oriented policing and innovative uses of technology has allowed Lowell to fine-tune the process to fit its needs.”