The Sam’s Plan and a Few Things The Sam Did Not Mention

Fighting Crime The Sam’s Way

In his full-page ad in the October 16th issue of the Winnipeg Free Press, the self-proclaimed “Tough on Crime”  Sam outlined his accomplishments during his six-year tenure as Winnipeg’s Mayor.  At least two (and perhaps more) of Sam’s accomplishments were not mentioned.

The first: Closed Circuit Television in the downtown area.  The Sam fails to mention this $450,000.00 vanity project.  Why not?  Normally when cities institute this type of program they flood the media with details about arrests that resulted from the project.  They outline how the initiative has reduced crime and made the area safer.  We have heard none of that which leads one to conclude that perhaps it has not had the positive impact it was meant to have in terms of preventing crime. Perhaps if you had just spent close to half a million dollars (enough money to put 5 police officers on Winnipeg streets for a year) on a failed project you would not mention it either.

The second accomplishment which has turned into an ‘unmentionable’ is truly puzzling as it was indeed a bona fide accomplishment.  The introduction of Crimestat in 2007 held great promise in terms of identifying crime trends and hot spots and more importantly, directing and guiding police action.  Crimestat is a tool that has proven successful in reducing crime in virtually every North American jurisdiction it has been used and yet seems to have lost favour within the Winnipeg Police Service.  As mentioned in a previous post on this topic, the Executive of the Winnipeg Police Service has turned its back on the one tool with a proven track record of producing results when it comes to crime reduction.  Is The Sam turning his back on it?  What other explanation for avoiding mention of it when he originally introduced it with such fanfare?

The really sad thing is that Crimestat, if used in conjunction with a true commitment to community policing and a problem solving approach, could be an immense asset to the Police Service and the community in terms of crime reduction and community revitalization.  However, not only does The Sam avoid mentioning it, the Police Service is not using it as it was originally intended: to reduce crime in crime-ridden communities.  Instead residents are told to stay in their houses until it is safe to come out.  That could be a long stay.

Now, on to what The Sam did mention.  The Sam, backed by the endorsement of the Winnipeg Police association, has pledged to increase the number of police officers by 58 officers.

There are several problems with this approach.  First, increasing the number of police officers has been The Sam’s perennial answer to crime.  It has become as predictable as the mayor saying either ‘I’ve done that; am doing that; or will be doing that’ anytime a valid suggestion is made to improve the delivery of police service in Winnipeg or any other civic issue for that matter.  The Sam keeps doing the same thing and expecting a different result.  In a recent interview I made the observation that repeatedly doing the same thing and expecting a different result is one definition of insanity.  Perhaps what requires closer examination is not only the number of officers but rather the direction that officers are currently receiving from their executive in terms of goals, objectives, strategies and tactics.

Continually alternating between flooding the north end and the west end with large numbers of police officers every time a flare-up occurs is not the answer to long-term crime reduction and the creation of safe neighbourhoods.  That approach is a lot like flooding a combat zone with troops without an exit strategy and then just picking up and leaving without having put in place the needed infrastructure to ensure long-term stability in the neighbourhood.

On to The Sam’s actual promises:

Twenty new positions for a dedicated Gang Unit.  This could be positive if the unit can be convinced that its function is something else than gathering intelligence. Dedicated units with narrow mandates tend to fixate on intelligence gathering as opposed to operations.  A twenty persons unit could help make a difference if its mandate is clearly defined in terms of goals and strategies to achieve those goals.

Eighteen additional officers of staff one 2-officer unit 24 hours a day.  The Winnipeg Police Service has enough personnel assigned to uniform patrol to staff 27 two-officer units 24 hours a day 365 days a year.  Actually,  some Division Commanders question that.  It seems in some divisions the staffing ratio of 18 officers per unit is not quite there, but on paper it is.  The real question is where will this unit be assigned.  Will it simply be swallowed up in the vortex of calls for service?  If it is,  the addition of one unit will make little difference.  This could have been an opportunity to perhaps introduce additional 1-officer units with a very specific mandate centered on crime reduction activities.

Twenty new officers dedicated to foot patrol. The biggest question that has been left unanswered as it relates to this campaign promise is the establishment of beats in terms of location, and the mandate of the officers assigned.  Simply walking in circles in the downtown area will do little to create safer communities in the north end and west end of the city.  Simply assigning beat officers with a law enforcement mandate will do little to bring about community revitalization and the creation of safer communities.

The larger problem with specific political assignment of police personnel at election time is this:  it demonstrates that the police service itself has failed to address its failures.  If police fail to recognize the severity of the issues facing them and fail to develop a comprehensive strategic plan complete with goals, strategies to achieve those goals, and performance measures to gauge success (or failure) and personnel requirements to implement the plan,  then politicians step in at election time and make promises that are politically motivated and tie the hands of police in terms of deployment of personnel.  And the police cannot blame anyone but themselves.  If their inactivity or inability to develop a cohesive plan of action, or to use the tools at their disposal (such as Crimestat), creates a vacuum in terms of leadership and direction, the situation is ripe for political opportunism.  The Sam sensed the opportunity and ran with it.

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Dealing with Crime at Election Time

Let me begin by using an analogy:

When the British Petroleum well in the Gulf of Mexico exploded, spewing million of barrels of oil into the water, two simultaneous approaches were implemented to deal with the issue.  First, immediate attempts were made to cap the well to stop the flow of oil, and secondly, remediation efforts  were employed to deal with the effect of the spill in terms of doing clean-up along the coastline of various southern states.  Both the cause and the effects were dealt with.

Now, let’s draw a comparison to crime in Winnipeg:

Traditional reactive policing can be compared to relying on remediation efforts as a means of addressing the issue of crime.  You allow the well (in this case, crime) to spew unabated and spend most if not all of your policing resources on cleaning up the mess created by criminal activity.

The problem is that it never ends.  The well spews out new criminals on a daily basis and the system is caught up in a catch 22.  The police are so busy attending calls for service, making arrests, seizing evidence and testifying in court that they have little time left to perform in a proactive manner.  Nor is there time left to enact preventative measures.  The result: the well never gets capped.

A preventative mindset would see police employ an approach that focuses much greater attention to capping the well;that is, activities designed to reduce criminal activity and to keep young people from becoming involved in criminal activity.  A preventative mindset and a proactive approach are long term strategies.  It involves recognizing the need for some short term pain for long term gain.  It involves investing in the future of our community.

One of the problems in terms of the municipal approach to policing is the definition of ‘long term’.  For municipal politicians, long term means their current term in office.  A 3 or 4 year term is not long enough to enact significant changes and produce results from a policing and crime prevention perspective.  Municipal politicians are more attuned to the`flavour of the day approach’.  Crime prevention is not a sexy political issue.   More uniform officers on the street,  CCTV cameras, a gang unit and a helicopter may not solve our crime problem but they certainly are bound to create attention-grabbing headlines to hang your hat on at election time.

It’s about time the electorate woke up and had a close look at how the current civic administration is spending our money.  Municipal taxes are meant to pay for civic infrastructure and services.  They are not meant to be squandered at election time by politicians seeking to buy our votes with our own money.   The problem of crime is not solved by political expediency.

Although oil wells can be capped completely, stopping the flow of oil, no one is naive enough to believe that all crime can be totally eliminated through preventative measures.   But nor does it take a rocket scientist to comprehend that leaving the well uncapped means crime will keep increasing, the police will continue to be overtaxed with calls for service, and the cost of providing municipal services will keep increasing.

I’m waiting for a mayoralty candidate that is prepared to stand up and say “I’m going to devote resources to capping the well”.

Westend Story


A really short play in one Act and one Scene

Act 1, Scene 1   Police officials and the mayor are gathered for a news conference outside the mayor’s office.  Representatives of Winnipeg’s print and electronic media are present to be briefed about recent violence in the West End

Police Public information Officer (shocked):  “We’re shocked.”

Chief of Police (sanctimoniously):  “These things cannot be tolerated.”

Mayor (indignantly):  “The public should be angry.”

Media Person #1              Can you explain to us why it is that you are shocked?  For those of us who follow crime in this city, especially as it affects the West End, what has happened these past days does not seem all that surprising.  Crimes of violence are not unusual in the West End.  How many shootings have there been in District 1 in the 5 month period since January 1st. 2010?

PIO                                         I don’t know off hand but I can get you that information.

Media Person #1              Your Crimestat website indicates 9 shootings since January and that’s up from 2 for the same period the previous year.  In the Daniel McIntyre Ward alone, Crimestat shows 5 shootings for that period – that’s up from 1 the previous year.

Media Person #1              How about muggings and sexual assaults?   Any idea how many of those offenses occurred in the Daniel McIntyre Ward?”

PIO                                         Again, I can get those numbers but off hand I don’t know.  In terms of the Crimestat Management and Accountability System, your questions on that topic should be directed to the Chief of Police.

Media Person #1              I’m starting to feel like I’m performing a public service here.  In any event I have those numbers and am prepared to share them with you if that would be helpful.   The long and the short of it is that there has been an abundance of violent crime in the West End and I’m surprised that you were shocked.

Media Person #1              Let me ask you, Chief: as you sat through the bi-weekly Crimestat meetings for the past 5 months and you saw the crime maps displayed on the screen depicting the  number of shootings and other violent crimes in the west end, did it occur to you that a trend might be developing?

Chief of Police                   Actually, I no longer attend Crimestat meetings.

Media Person #1              Fair enough, did your Deputy Chiefs report back to you on what was happening in the West End?

Chief of Police                   Actually they don’t regularly attend Crimestat meetings either.

Media Person #1 (shocked)              Surely, someone must have reported back to you about the violence in the West end as the crime maps went up on the screen week after week?

Chief of Police                   I have been told we no longer display crime maps at Crimestat meetings.

Media Person #1              That is something I would be interested in discussing with you at length.

Chief of Police                   Perhaps some other time.  This is not the time or place for that discussion.

Media Person#2               Chief, you indicated that what is happening in the West End ‘cannot be tolerated’ and have announced the assignment of additional resources.  There are other parts of the city that have levels of crime that are as high or perhaps even higher than the West End.  Will you be assigning additional resources to those areas as well in a proactive manner?

Chief of Police                   As you are aware, we are trying to do the best we can with the resources we have.  We would like to be able to have a greater presence in a number of communities but a ‘cop on every corner’ is just not possible.  We are concentrating our efforts, not just on having a presence.  We’re trying to build relationships within the community.  That is what it’s all about: building relationships.

Media Person #2              In your expert opinion, could the presence of a number of full-time dedicated beat officers assigned to the West End community have prevented these latest acts of violence?

Chief of Police                   It might have, but there is a real problem with assigning resources to prevention activities.  It’s very hard to measure their value because you are never able to truly measure their effectiveness.  How can you measure and put a value on something that did not happen?  The thing to remember, though, is that it is all about building relationships.  That is what I am committed to doing.

Media Person #3              Almost 200 years ago when Sir Robert Peel was charged with the formation of the London Metropolitan Police he laid out 9 basic principles to guide policing.  Are you familiar with those principles?

Chief of Police:                                  Yes of course I am, as are most police officers.

Media Person#3               I am specifically interested in your views on the first principle as it applies to the situation in the West End.

Chief of Police                   In what sense?

Media Person #3              In a general sense but  specifically do you agree with the principle?

Chief of Police                   I think we are getting side tracked here.  We are not here to discuss principles we are here to discuss what has happened in the West End and what we are going to do about it.

Media Person #3              Would it help if I read out what the principle says?

Chief of Police                   Let’s move on.  We are dealing here with reality not theory.

Media Person #4              Mr. Mayor, you have said that the people in the West End have a right to be angry and that they should be angry.  Who should they be angry with?

Mayor                                   They should be angry with the politicians in Ottawa.  We need harsher criminal laws to keep criminals behind bars.

Media Person #4              Should any of that anger be directed at the city and the police service whose job it is to police the city?

Mayor:                                 Absolutely not.  The city has worked hard to increase the number of officers on the street.  My, excuse me, I mean our, police officers under the guidance of the Chief of Police are putting their lives on the line every day.  Their efforts  should not be criticized.

Media Person #4              Increases in police complement over the past decade have been almost exclusively funded by the province.  Are there plans to increase the size of the Service further using city dollars?

Mayor                                   The city is not in a position to spend additional tax dollars on policing.

Media Person#4               And yet, in the last year the city (with assistance from the province) has spent or committed to spending approximately 5 million dollars on Closed Circuit Television and the purchase of a helicopter.  Some have suggested that is politically motivated pre-election spending that could have been devoted to increasing the size of the police service and putting dedicated foot patrols in high crime areas such as the West End.  What is your response to that?

Mayor (defensively and offensively)              That is a ludicrous suggestion.  I’m offended that you would even ask such a question.  There are serious issues at stake here and you are trying to turn this into a political issue.  And as you all know because I’ve said it many times, I am not a politician.

(The mayor, displaying his best exasperated look, motions to the PIO and the Chief of Police to follow him into the mayor’s office and they depart.)

The following is a link to the City of Winnipeg/Winnipeg Police Service Crimestat website:

http://www.winnipeg.ca/crimestat/whatisCrimeStat.stm

The map below displays reported crime for the ten offenses tracked by Crimestat for the Daniel McIntyre Ward for the period of June 2009 to May 2010

Source:  City of Winnipeg Crimestat website

A Lack of Operational Planning

Through a woeful lack of planning the Mayor and the Chief of Police keep managing to create a sense of urgency on funding police initiatives. First they managed to create a near panic about helicopter funding. Then they attempted to do the same with cadet funding stopping just short of calling the Province deceitful.  I’m starting to get used to the two of them standing together speaking with once voice, joined at the lip so to speak berating the Province. 

It may be time for the province to advise the Mayor and the Chief of Police that a lack of planning on the part of the City and the Police Service does not automatically create an emergency for the province. 

Perhaps its time for the City and the Police Service to put the things they are actually planning to do in the Business Plan and the Captial Budget.  If they did, and  then shared the document with the Province everyone would have a heads up on whats coming.  This would be helpfull for the Province especially as it relates to programs the City wants them to fund. 

An examination of the City’s Departmental Business Plans best exemplifies the City’s  lack of planning.

In 2008 the Police Service created and published its 2008-2010 Business Plan.* That document outlines the goals for the police service for the three-year period, and lists the strategies it will be using to accomplish its goals.

One would think that somewhere in that document one would find a reference to the Closed Circuit Television Cameras the mayor had installed in the downtown area. Surely they could not be funded and installed unless it was a police priority and identified as such in the business plan. Well they were not part of the business plan yet they were purchased and installed. Look up sometime when you are downtown. You’ll see them and even if you don’t, they will “see” you. 

Okay, maybe that one slipped through but surely the helicopter was part of the long-term business plan, or if not part of the business plan then in the capital budget. Wrong! Have a look at the 2008 and 2009 capital budgets. The helicopter does not appear there either.

Surely the reintroduction of the cadet program was part of the business plan. Wrong again!

If none of these initiatives were identified as priorities by the Police Service through the business planning or capital budget process, how did they get on the action agenda? It begs the question: whose agenda is being implemented? Does the agenda reflect the operational needs of the Police Service or the political needs of the Mayor in an election year?

 Perhaps I wrongly concluded at the outset that there was a lack of planning at City Hall and the Public Safety Building. Perhaps there is planning taking place it’s just that it’s political not operational.

*   http://winnipeg.ca/cao/BusinessPlanbySvc.stm

Taser Cams

What is a Taser Cam?  Quite simply it’s a digital audio and video recording device that’s attached to the battery that powers the Taser. 

What does the Taser Cam do?  Once the Taser is removed from its holster and activated it starts recording.

What does the Taser Cam cost?  $400 to $500 (USD) per unit.

Which model of Taser will accommodate the Taser Cam?  Model X26

Which model of Taser do the Winnipeg Police use?  Model X26

How many Tasers does the Winnipeg Police Service have?  In the range of 175

What would it cost to equip the Winnipeg Police Service with Taser Cams?  Between 70 and 90 thousand dollars

Why don’t the Winnipeg Police use Taser Cams?   That’s a question worth considering.     

Based on the 2010 capital budget submissions it seems that the Winnipeg Police Service is preparing to spend a fair bit of cash on digital recording technology.  The 2010-2015 preliminary capital budget contains $523,000.00 for digital recoding devices in interview rooms in 2012.  It also contains $1,000,000.00 (yes you read that right, it’s one million) for an officer mobile video system in 2015.  These preliminary capital budget figures would seem to suggest that capturing the actions of officers and suspects on video is of some importance. 

Capturing the actions of officers on video is especially important in circumstances where force is used.  This became very apparent as the Braidwood Inquiry into the RCMP use of Taser at the Vancouver airport unfolded.  The Braidwood Inquiry was able to rely on some video recorded by a by-stander but in most cases police use of Tasers is unrecorded.  Unrecorded, despite the fact that the technology to do so exists, and is relatively affordable.   Using an estimate of 175 Taser units the cost of equipping the Winnipeg Police Service with Taser Cam would be under 100 thousand dollars. 

With the existing climate in Canada regarding Taser use it is in everyone’s interest to record their use.  A video of each and every Taser deployment would establish an unbiased record of what took place.  It would serve to protect both the public and the police.  It would curb any misuse of Tasers by police, and it would nullify complaints against police about Taser use in situations where they were clearly appropriately deployed.  

Perhaps this is any area where Standing Committee on Protection and Community Services could ask the police to do a study and submit a report.  Careful examination might reveal that although the police have not asked for and perhaps don’t want Taser Cams, they may actually need them.   

Pictured below (left) is the Taser Cam and (right) a Taser X26 gun.  (Images retrieved from the Taser International website on 09 11 24) http://www.taser.com/products/law/Pages/default.aspx

 

High Tech Surveillance in Amish Country

Lancaster is a relatively peaceful city of 54,000 people situated in the heart of Pennsylvania’s Amish country.  Horse drawn buggies are not unusual in the surrounding area.  It certainly does not have the same level of crime as many large American cities.  Last year there were 3 murders in Lancaster.  

Lancaster is in the process of installing 165 surveillance cameras.  This blanket of surveillance comes as the result of the recommendations of a  2001 special commission which recommended the 2.7 million dollar system.  Once fully operational, Lancaster will have more surveillance cameras than some large cities like Philadelphia and Boston.   

Unlike other jurisdictions where surveillance cameras are primarily controlled and monitored by police, the Lancaster model relies on civilian monitors who are screened, trained and employed by the Lancaster Community Safety Coalition.   

The use of civilian monitors has raised some privacy concerns.  

The CCTV initiative in Lancaster is supported by local  police.  Statistical evidence as to the effectiveness of the system is as yet inconclusive.

Cameras Solve Crime

Investing in technology such as CCTV to help solve crime may be a prudent use of public funds but only if the evidence supports the investment.  The results of the Winnipeg CCTV Pilot Project are not yet known  but a recent internal police review in the UK shed some light on the effectiveness of the CCTV network in London, England.  

The study reported that in the last year in London 1000 crimes were solved as a result of CCTV.  

That may sound like an impressive number but it has prompted David Davis MP to lament the spending of crime prevention dollars on CCTV.  According to Davis CCTV is a very expensive approach considering its the minimal effectiveness.

London police are looking at measures that can be taken to increase the effectiveness of CCTV and have several projects ongoing to address the issue.  The projects center on how images are retrieved and distributed. 

In case you were wondering London has 1 million cameras in place: that equates to 1 crime solved for every 1000 cameras.