By Tom Steinert-Threlkeld Print this article Print

Online exclusive: Named in haste and built on simple technologies, the NYPD's CompStat system has become a key tool in fighting crime through better statistical analysis.

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CompStat's Successes

The process now has become institutionalized in the NYPD. After all, CompStat was created out of "collective police wisdom" and then ingrained through years of CompStat meetings, tactics and follow-up, notes Phyllis McDonald, director of research for the division of public safety at Johns Hopkins University. The result: New York reported another 4% drop in homicides in 2001, after 12 straight years of previous declines. Meanwhile, in Boston, where Bratton previously served as chief of police, homicides last year went up 67%.

So celebrated is the CompStat success that Maple, Bratton, Yohe, John Linder and others have been able to create private careers based on implementing it in other cities—and even in private businesses.

Indeed, in January, shortly after leaving office as mayor, Giuliani formed a consultancy called Giuliani Partners, with the express purpose of showing how to use CompStat as a means of monitoring corporate performance.

Since that time, Giuliani's communications director, Sunny Mindel, has declined to return at least nine separate invitations for the former mayor to describe how he planned to apply CompStat to businesses; and, one on how he thought CompStat could be used to counter terrorism.

At the annual convention of the Direct Marketing Association at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York in June, Giuliani himself brought up that potential. The "war in Afghanistan is being fought" the CompStat way, he said, without elaboration.

He called the CompStat makeover of law enforcement a blend of people, process and technology "in equal measure." He said he called for CompStat statistics every day, so crime got constant attention. "If you measure something, you can manage it," he said in responding to a Baseline question. "If you can't measure it, it floats away, you can't manage it."

But Giuliani may not be the best person to actually turn around and implement new CompStat programs, suggests Bratton, who fell out with the former mayor after 27 months on the job, partly due to battles over credit for the success of CompStat.

"He literally attended, I think during my time, one meeting" of CompStat, Bratton says. "He had nothing to do with its initiation, design, implementation or resulting manifestations. But he understood how significant it was to ensure that the strategies that we were putting into place" were effective.

Bratton still criticizes Giuliani for not investing in technology to achieve permanent reductions in crime, saying the mayor preferred to pay overtime to officers to get short-term results.

He expects the current commissioner, Raymond Kelly, to weave the fight against terrorism into the CompStat process, and possibly establish an entire antiterrorism unit, using the measurement and accountability approach to identify and prevent future terrorist attacks.

"At the NYPD, we changed the mission from measuring our success on our response to crime," says Bratton, "to basically the record of success is, 'How many crimes did we prevent?' That's the guts of the mentality change that CompStat was essential to bring about."

This article was originally published on 2002-09-09
Tom was editor-in-chief of Interactive Week, from 1995 to 2000, leading a team that created the Internet industry's first newspaper and won numerous awards for the publication. He also has been an award-winning technology journalist for the Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He is a graduate of the Harvard Business School and the University of Missouri School of Journalism.
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