Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Touted crime database not widely supported

Review found apathy toward Katz's pet project

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It was once billed by top city officials as a cutting-edge tool to help the Winnipeg Police Service crack down fast and hard on emerging crime problems before they took hold in neighbourhoods. But an external consultant's review of the WPS released this week shows internal commitment to the much-ballyhooed CrimeStat system appears to be fickle -- much to the stated disappointment of the man responsible for bringing it to the city as a re-election pledge, Mayor Sam Katz.

Winnipeg's CrimeStat is a database by which police can map out and analyze crime statistics to ferret out crime trends in real time and respond quickly as part of a "intelligence-led" policing model much in favour across North American police agencies over the last 15 years.

It's a variant of similar computer systems that have been widely trumpeted for turning around crime issues in major cities such as New York City and Minneapolis, to name just two.

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But an operational review of the WPS's use of CrimeStat conducted by Texas-based Matrix Consulting Services found several issues, including cancelled or shortened weekly CrimeStat meetings, non-regular attendance by the chief or his deputies and limited analysis of statistics and how they impact on the work of general patrol units.

"It seems that preparation time is limited and focused on 'just' trying to understand the statistical increase 'or' decrease," the review notes. Matrix calls on the WPS to introduce "more formality" to CrimeStat meetings and increase accountability and ownership for police in supervisory roles.

The lack of focus on leveraging CrimeStat to its fullest has hampered the effectiveness of specialty community-support units, Matrix found.

The support units, introduced in 2008 by former police chief Keith McCaskill, are tasked with tackling ongoing area crime issues and crime-prevention efforts while at the same time helping reduce strain on general patrol units, Matrix found.

"This initiative has not yet received sufficient support in planning, organization and implementation to yield an organizational focus and consistent positive results at the street level," the review states.

Katz made CrimeStat a key component of his 2006 re-election campaign. He touted it as a made-in-Winnipeg version of U.S. CompStat systems and suggested it would allow the city to get more value out of the money it spends on policing.

The mayor also said the program would reduce crime.

"The message to the criminal element: Pack your bags," Katz said at an election-campaign event in Central Park in September 2006.

Following the release of the Matrix report this week, Katz said he was "extremely disappointed" there is little buy-in to the program among senior police officers.

"I have seen how that works in other cities and how beneficial it is," he said, referring to trips he took to the U.S. in 2006 to look at CompStat programs. "It was very much supported by everyone at the time. I travelled to many other cities and saw it in action and it was a very, very valuable tool."

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 31, 2013 A6

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