The Winnipeg Police Service is set to launch a crime tracking program – dubbed CrimeStat – early next month in hopes of generating accurate and timely information on crime in the city.
It’s an approach that was started in New York City in 1994, according to Winnipeg’s deputy chief Menno Zacharias.
“Former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani did a presentation in Winnipeg and we talked about crime statistics tracking and what it has done for policing in New York City,” said Zacharias. “From a political perspective the mayor of Winnipeg (Sam Katz) was quite taken with this approach.”
Zacharias noted that the Winnipeg Police had been looking at this type of approach for some time.
“The timing was good in terms of the service wanting to go in that direction and having the political support to do so,” he added.
The same strategy also produced significant results for the Minneapolis Police Department.
Minneapolis Police had been using what it calls Code 4 since 1998, according to its deputy chief Rob Allen. Similar to CrimeStat, Code 4 tracks crime according to the offence and neighborhood.
Since using Code 4 Minneapolis has seen a 40 per cent reduction in what is referred to in American policing as Part 1 Crime citywide which includes murder, rape and auto theft, said Allen.
He noted that the change in approach to crime tracking was due in large part to the work of the New York Police Department (NYPD) that had resulted in a proactive approach to policing.
“It used to be that crime was something that happened and the police reacted to it,” said Allen. “But starting with the work of the NYPD it has resulted in the realization that through good police management can really impact crime rates.”
Allen noted that the approach was not without risks and that its union president had been opposed to the strategy right from the start.
“There was an initial reluctance,” said Allen. “(The union president) felt this was just a way to blame cops for crime.”
Allen said that in reality, the people who are held accountable for performance are the precinct commanders.
“They’re the people who sit in front of me every week and explain what strategies they had used to identify patterns quickly and how they responded to them.”
Zacharias said it’s been well proven by a lot of other police departments that using information technology to assist with crime fighting is a viable and sound approach.