Getting 'Deep Down'

By Elizabeth Bennett  |  Posted 2006-02-07 Print this article Print

Serious crime is down in the nation's second-largest city. A big reason for the drop: LAPD's use of an analytics system to tailor its enforcement strategies.

Getting 'Deep Down'

Compstat, says Bratton, allows senior managers "to get deep down into the bowels of the organization, to make sure goals that are being established at the top are in fact being addressed lower down."

To get "deep down," timely and accurate data—e.g., reported crimes, arrests and geographic coordinates—is collected and organized in a database. That information is analyzed for patterns and trends. Depending on the intelligence gleaned, police chiefs and captains develop a targeted strategy to fight crime, such as dispatching more foot patrols in high-crime neighborhoods or sending out warnings to auto dealers and citizens when a particular model of vehicle is susceptible to theft. In L.A., captains from each of 19 geographic areas are held accountable for implementing policing and management strategies and reporting results every eight weeks at Compstat meetings—like the December session for the San Fernando Valley bureau.

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At that particular meeting, it was showtime for Joseph Curreri, the police captain responsible for protecting the Valley's Devonshire division, an area 44 miles square with 185,000 residents. The Devonshire area may have accounted for only 4% of all crime in Los Angeles in 2005, but Curreri's presentation and dialogue with other police officers provides a first-hand glimpse into Bratton's crime-fighting playbook.

The mustachioed captain is slightly defensive while he tries to explain a 63% increase in Devonshire burglaries over a recent four-week period (Devonshire burglaries were down 13% overall for the year). He attributes the spike to a serial burglar arrested the night before, the man's second arrest since July. The 35-year-old offender, Curreri says, has been selling pilfered loot through a jewelry business he owns.

When area burglaries rose after the offender posted bail in July, Curreri and his squad teamed up with the LAPD's Major Crimes Division. Together, the units put the suspected burglar under surveillance and eventually arrested him after a short foot pursuit. The assailant had a bag full of jewelry consistent with other crimes, according to

Detective Tim Brausam, who is involved with the case.

Assistant chief George Gascon, who is responsible for running Compstat's daily operations, speaks up, seeking assurance that the alleged criminal's bail will be set high that night. Hooper says bail will be high, or there will be no bail at all. (In July, bail for this suspect was set at $1 million but "dropped significantly," according to Detective Brausam.) Gascon says he will follow up two months later at the next San Fernando Valley Compstat meeting.

Only four weeks later, Curreri and Devonshire's residents could rest a little easier. Burglaries were down 23% compared to the prior four-week period and the arrested burglar, whose bail was set at $1 million, had been indicted in connection with a total of 38 break-ins.

While this particular example appears to be straightforward, it took some managerial and technical might to get LAPD's Compstat program where it is today.

Detective Jeff Godown, now commanding officer of the Compstat unit, recalls a meeting that he and his staff had with Bratton in early 2003. At the time, the chief outlined the measurements he wanted to monitor on a daily and weekly basis—such as homicides (daily) and all major crimes (weekly).

Senior Writer
Elizabeth has been writing and reporting at Baselinesince its inaugural issue. Most recently, Liz helped Fortune 500 companies with their online strategies as a customer experience analyst at Creative Good. Prior to that, she worked in the organization practice at McKinsey & Co. She holds a B.A. from Vassar College.

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