Does Compstat reduce crime ?
Compstat (short for computer statistics or comparative statistics) originated in the new york city police department (NYPD) in 1994 when william bratton was police commissioner. Compstat is a comprehensive, city-wide database that records all reported crimes or complaints, arrests, and summonses issued in each of the city’s 76 precincts. City officials had previously believed that crime could not be prevented by better information and analytical tools but instead by using more foot patrols in neighborhoods along with the concept of “community policing” in which efforts were made to strengthen the involvement of community groups. In contrast, bratton and rudy giuliani, then the mayor of new york city, believed that police could be more effective in reducing crime if operational decisions took place at the precinct level and if decision makers had better information. Precinct commanders were in a better position than police headquarters to understand the spesific needs of the communities they served and to direct the work of the 200 to 400 police officers they managed. Compstat gave precinct commanders more authority and responsibility, but also more accountability. At weekly meetings, representatives from each of the NYPD’s precincts, service areas, and transit districts are put on the “hot seat’ at police headquarters and required to provide a statistical summary of the week’s crime complaint, arrest and summons activity, as well as significant cases, crime patterns, and police activities. Commanders must explain what has been done to reduce crime in the districts under their command, and if crime has gone up, they must explain why. Commanders are held directly accountable for reducing crime in their area of command. In the past, they were evaluated primarily on the basis of their administrative skills, such as staying within budget and deploying resources efficiently. The data these commanders provide, including spesific times and locations of crimes and enforcement activities, are forwarded to the NYPD’s compstat unit where they are loaded into a city-wide database. The system analyzes the data and produces a weekly compstat report on crime complaint and arrest activity at the precinct, patrol borough, and city wide levels. The data are summarized by week, prior 30 days, and year-to-date for comparison with the previous year’s activity and for establishing trends. The compstat unit also issues weekly commander profile reports to measure the performance of precinct commanders. The weekly commander profile reports include information on the commander’s date of appointment, years in rank, education and specialized training, most recent performance evaluation rating, the units that person previously commanded, the amount of overtime generated by police under that commander, absence rates, community demographics, and civilian complaints. Using mapinfo geographic information system (GIS) software, the compstat data can be displayed on maps showing crime and arrest location, crime”hot spots”, and other relevant information. Comparative charts, tables, and graphs can also be projected simultaneously. These visual presentations help precinct commanders and members of the NYPD’s executive staff to quickly identify patterns and trends. Depending on the intelligence gleaned from the system, police chiefs and captains develop a targeted strategy for fighting crime, such as dispatching more foot patrols to high-crime neighborhoods, or isuuing warnings to the public when a particular model of vehicle is susceptible to theft. During bratton’s 27-month tenure, serious crime in new york dropped by 25% and homicides went down by 44%. Crime in new york city has dropped by 69% in the last 12 years. Skeptics do not believe that compstat was responsible for these results. They point to the decline in the number of young, poor men, an improved economy, programs that reduced welfare rolls while giving poor people...
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