Fighting Crime with Technology: A Detroit Success Story

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took his seat.

“No. Too slow,” the uniformed officer answered as the meeting began.

Seated around the table under a screen projecting a Google map of the jurisdiction were Wayne State cops; a Detroit police officer fresh off his beat near the north border of Wayne State’s jurisdiction; a representative from the Department of Corrections, which works with WSUPD to track absconders; representatives from the cultural institutions’ security teams; two members of Wayne State’s criminal justice department; and a gentleman at the end of the table who looked more like a member of academia than law enforcement.

The first order of business was reviewing crime statistics from the preceeding two weeks. Sexual assaults and aggravated assaults were each up 5 percent, but everything else was down: dangerous drugs by 43 percent, burglaries by 30 percent, larceny by 21 percent, robbery by 28 percent, and stolen vehicles by 25 percent. Thirty-seven arrests had been made in the past 14 days, including 12 offenders under Department of Corrections supervision. (In Detroit, as in elsewhere in the nation, recidivism continues to be a major problem.)

The CompStat meeting participants discussed various hot spots in the jurisdiction (it turns out the block where I live is a larceny hot spot) and how to manage them.

“Let me see assaults from the past year in the cultural center,” an officer asked, referring to the small stretch of Woodward where the museums and library sit. The gentleman on the end, who turned out to be David Martin, research director for the Urban Safety Program in Wayne State’s Center for Urban Studies, clicked his mouse a few times and the map on the screen lit up with a rainbow of icons, one for each assault since January. A cluster appeared at the intersection of Cass and Palmer. “Looks like it’s time for another visit to the gas station,” the officer said, noting that the station owner’s crime prevention efforts seemed to stop with a hand-lettered “no loitering” sign.

Later in the meeting, Martin demonstrated a new project the Center for Urban … Next Page »

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