Local News

Data-driven policing driving Spokane crime down

SPOKANE, Wash. - At a time when most people are waking up, or eating breakfast, the Spokane Police Department command staff is listening to crime analysts who will help determine where to place units to help curb crime across the city.

The officers inside the meeting behind closed doors are hoping to make arrests by lunch.

"Supposedly there's oxycontin moving in and out of there," one analyst said about a suspected drug house.

"There were arrests in five of the incidents," an officer says of a recent success.

Police and crime analysts are working with a program called COMPSTAT, computer software used in cities like New York and Los Angeles and now being used in Spokane. COMPSTAT tracks crime trends in the city and directs officers to go there more often in times of day when most of the crime happens.

COMPSTAT meeting

"In order to make them more efficient with where they're spending their time in the field," Spokane Police Commander Brad Arleth said.

It's a process using crime data that used to take 3-5 days, it now takes hours.

COMPSTAT helped officers respond quickly to the home invasion earlier this week where a grandma was holding the intruder at gunpoint.

It also worked in February after a rash of burglaries at the Lincoln Heights shopping center. An undercover officer was in the area, knowing it was a target for burglars, and caught the criminal in the act.

"In the right place at the right time and we made an arrest with subsequent search warrants and recovered property from a lot of the burglaries us there," Arleth said.

People out in the community are noticing a difference as well.

On North Cedar Isley Worthy sits in his car waiting for his girlfriend as he does every day. He knows the West Central neighborhood well; he grew up in the area.

"Even the 7-11 over here used to give you Slurpees on Halloween. I don't think they do too much trick-or-treating in this neighborhood you know," he said.

Worthy, a former Army sniper, keeps an eye on the neighborhood, and he's noticed something different: The increased police presence.

"Normally I'd come over here and I'd sit, I'd maybe see one drive by. Now you come into the neighborhood early in the morning, towards the evening you'll have one on this corner, one on that corner, going through the alleys," he said.

Those police cruisers are there because of COMPSTAT. That neighborhood was designated as a hot-spot for burglaries in the past week.

"We use that as our model to combat crime and be where we need to be looking at the offenders we need to be looking at," Arleth said.

The result so far is promising. Property crimes are down in the last month by 3-percent. Violent crimes are down almost 10-percent. Previously, officers tested the COMPSTAT system on North Nevada Street. The results were significant.

"At the end of nine months on that pilot project, we were able to show we had reduced property crimes in that small area by 49-percent," Arleth said.

Back at the morning meeting, it may be early in the day and in the process but police hope planning behind closed doors will help put criminals behind bars.

"A gradual decrease (in crime) as the weeks have gone on, so we're hitting the right areas as far as pro-active emphasis," one officer said to another.