The answers to Mesa’s crime problems could be in the numbers. CompStat — a statistics program that originated with the New York Police Department and made its way to the Los Angeles Police Department as a means to fight crime — has authorities here hoping they’ll be able to quickly identify trends and catch criminals.
The concept, which comes to Mesa on Thursday with a first meeting, revolves around crunching numbers and analyzing data to bring all of the stats under one umbrella. It could seem mundane to the average person, but its results are expected to benefit the police department and therefore the community.
“What it’s going to do for the city of Mesa is it’s going to make a much more efficient police department and a better crime fighter,” Mesa police Chief George Gascón said, adding that results should include a reduction in crime, traffic crashes and fatalities, and “just overall creating a better place for people to live.”
CompStat is credited with reducing crime in Los Angeles for three straight years, said Los Angeles detective Jeff Godown, who came to Mesa several weeks ago to instruct the department about the program.
The program represents the beginning of changes Gascón, who was sworn in Aug. 10, is making. In November, Gascón said the department will decentralize, including initiatives like sending detectives out to the four substations to more directly work with patrol officers.
Gascón, who worked with CompStat as an assistant chief with the LAPD, believes it will allow officers to recognize crime patterns and address them more quickly than a current system that uses data that is months old and disorganized.
With CompStat, Mesa police will meet every other week. Initially, a commander from each of the department’s substations will gather to go over the numbers. However, in November the department reorganization will bring detectives into those meetings, Gascón said, noting that the public will eventually be invited.
Police agencies nationwide and in other countries are examining CompStat, Godown said.
Some crime analysts call the process the future of intelligence-led policing.
Glendale police have been working with a computer statistics process for seven years and are working to make the transition to CompStat, Glendale police crime analyst Brian Hill said.
The difficulty has been a lack of manpower and outdated technology, Hill said.
Once CompStat is fully implemented, officers will be able to look at data that is just a week old, rather than months old. The goal is to study crime stats and arrests from the day before.
CompStat will also allow community members to get more up-to-date crime data from the department’s Web site, something Gascón hopes will be in place by January.
Right now, the police department will use software it already has to run Comp-Stat, although the department will at some point need to spend several thousand dollars for software, hardware and projectors for the Comp-Stat meetings, Gascón said.
That money is in the budget, he said.
The effects of the program won’t be immediately known, he said.
The department will initially work with old numbers and will need a complete set of accurate data before comparisons can be made from one year to another.
“Then we have to figure out, is this where we want to be or do we want to be better, and I hope we always want to be better than where we are,” Gascón said.