Neighborhood policing helping curb crime in north Spokane

Neighborhood policing helping curb crime in north Spokane

SPOKANE, Wash. - New police programs are being credited for a drop in crime in north Spokane, with violent crime down 51-percent burglary and car prowling down 11-percent from this time last year and a 14-percent drop in crime overall.

So what's driving down those crime numbers? It's a variety of factors including assigning Spokane Police captains to geographic areas where they are held personally responsible for crime fighting strategies. Another is using new computer software that can help predict where criminals might strike next.

Northeast Spokane has always been a working class neighborhood where residents do their best to avoid being targeted by crime. But after a rash of car thefts, car prowling and break-ins plotted on a map showed the extent of the problem, Captain Keith Cummings asked a computer program called ATAC where criminals might strike next.

"So we use that information to identify where things might happen and use that in combination with the information that our officers gain on the street, where some of our repeat offenders live and combine that information into where we believe need to focus our resources," Cummings said.

Like a weather forecast for crime, ATAC software uses data gathered by crime analysts and then runs through an algorithm to get those predictive properties. It then picked a hot spot between Lyons and Cozza and Colton and Cincinnati. With that information in hand the captain assigned his north side officers to patrol the area when stats showed the crimes were happening.

"In this case a number of people were arrested right, if not directly within the hot spot area, very close by, and when we look at the arrest record of some of these individuals it's just amazing," Cummings said.

Hot spot arrests include 43-year-old Leonard Gilbert, an ex-con with eight felony convictions on his record, who police said was caught red-handed burglarizing a home on East Dalke. People who live just down the street from Gilbert's alleged victim say they're glad they've got a captain and the resources that come with his rank looking out for them.

"We have a lot of kids around here so to know they're protecting us and all of our homes and our cars is amazing to hear," neighbor Sarah Seratt said.

Captains taking charge of fighting crime in specific neighborhoods is part of the future of Spokane law enforcement. As the city trains up its 25 new officers more captains will be taking over a specific neighborhoods with their own patrol officers and detectives and then pursue crime in that neighborhood.

Having officers geographically assigned to your neighborhood makes them more familiar with criminals in that area as well and builds partnerships with the people who want to help police fight crime.