New Scotland Yard on the Move?

Metropolitan Police Headquarters, 8-10 Broadway, Westminster, London

 

Budget cuts and staffing reductions are causing the police in London England to re-evaluate their accommodation needs.  One of the cost cutting measures being looked at is moving from their current headquarters,  New Scotland Yard, to a smaller facility.

New Scotland Yard has served as the headquarters for London Police Since 1967.  Prior to moving to the new Scotland Yard in 1967, the headquarters was located in the Norman Shaw Building (1890-1967), Great Scotland Yard (1875-1890) and prior to that at 4 Whitehall Place, which had a rear entrance to a street called Great Scotland Yard.

The name Scotland Yard has been synonymous with policing  in London since the formation of the Metropolitan Police by Sir Robert Peel in 1829.

The move to a smaller facility would save the City of London  in the range of 10.5 million dollars annually.

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Foot Patrols Part III – The Pre-Community Policing Era

In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, Winnipeg was at the very cutting edge of what later came to be known as Community Policing.  It was dubbed Operation Affirmative Action  (OAA).

OAA incorporated many of the principles and values first proposed by Sir Robert Peel when the London Metropolitan Police Force was formed in 1829.  OAA was an approach to policing that recognized the importance of forming partnerships between the police and the community at the local level.  Hence it was structured on a geographical basis.  It was an early  form of Zone Policing that was later popularized by many Canadian and American cities under the banner of ‘Community Policing’.

The main tenets of OAA were:

  • permanent long-term assignment of  patrol unit and beat personnel to specific geographical areas;
  • the use of problem solving as opposed to a strictly legal approach to dealing with issues at the community level;
  • being proactive in terms of developing a working partnership with residents and business people on the an officer’s assigned beat and patrol unit area as well as addressing local community issues in their early stages before they developed into full-blown community problems.

The concept was a sound one but ahead of its time.  The OAA approach represented a radical departure from the policing norms of the day in terms of values, goals and approaches.

Officers assigned to beat patrol received very limited training and for the most part continued doing beat patrol in the same manner as they had in the past.  The proactive side of the equation was not sufficiently explained to either beat personnel or members assigned to mobile patrol units.  The entire operation was administered by a Staff Sergeant and without any apparent support by the police executive of the day, many officers took and expressed the attitude “this too shall pass” and failed to buy into the initiative.

Lastly, the police executive of the day was not prepared to give up decision-making power or control to the officers working at the street level.  This attitude  prevented the a proactive approach central to the success of OAA from taking hold.

Like many good ideas OAA  suffered from insufficient executive commitment,  inadequate pre-implementation  training and a general lack of post-implementation  nurturing.

As a consequence OAA died on the vine.

Part IV will deal with foot patrols during the community policing era which was kick started with the publication of a discussion paper titled A Vision of the Future of Policing in Canada, published by the Solicitor General of Canada in 1990.

Election Promises Part II – Foot Patrols

Foot Patrol in the 1970’s and early 1980’s

Up until the early 1980’s the Winnipeg Police Service had 18 or so areas of the city that were designated as ‘beats’. These beats consisted primarily of major streets in the commercial areas of the city.  Beat officers were assigned to patrol these beats, on foot.

Beats 1 and 2, as an example, covered Main Street from James Avenue to Higgins Avenue.  Beats 3 and 4 covered Main Street from Market Avenue to Mayfair Avenue and beats 5 and 6 covered Portage Avenue from Main Street to Sherbrook Street.  Other designated beats included north Main Street from Sutherland Avenue to Inkster Boulevard, Selkirk Avenue, Logan Avenue, Ellice Avenue, Sargent Avenue and portions of Corydon Avenue.

Beats were described in a ‘beat book’ which laid out the geographical area of the beats and included comments in terms of specific duties that officers assigned to that beat were required to perform as well as ‘special attentions’ (an early version of a ‘hotspot’).  Beat 4, as an example, required the assigned officer to perform traffic duty at the intersection of Mayfair Avenue and Main Street between 4:30 and 5:30 in the afternoon to facilitate the smooth egress of traffic from the downtown area.

The highest priority beats were beats 1 and 2 – the Main Street  ‘drag’ as it was referred to.

Beat patrol was primarily a duty assigned to raw rookies or more senior constables who were being punished for some real or imagined transgression.  I recall one officer, who was senior to me, walking the beat without a gun.  The problem was that he could not pass the required spelling test.  He was, however, an excellent shot with a hand gun and had earned ‘crossed revolvers’ during training.  So he walked the beat with the little applicate of crossed revolvers stitched to the sleeve of his tunic, but no gun.  He could not be assigned to a patrol unit because policy dictated that officers assigned to a car had to carry a gun.  When we patrolled the beat together the standing joke was that if we got involved in a serious situation that required gun play, I would toss him my gun, he would do the shooting  and I would write the required reports.  Although not as good a shot, I was issued with a gun because I could spell.

Another very senior constable, close to retirement, normally walked the beat in the Fort Rouge area.  He quite frequently missed his hourly calls and at times after being ‘missing’ for most of his shift, other beat officers were assigned to go search for him.  He was usually located at one of his favorite haunts on Corydon Avenue, generally two or three ‘sheets to the wind’.

Beat duty was fairly basic: Walk the assigned beat.  During day light hours.  Be visible.  Respond to any citizen enquiries on your designated beat.  Do occasional traffic duty during rush hour periods and hand out the odd parking tag and ‘mover’.

Movers were moving violations, breaches of the Highway Traffic Act such as running a red light or having faulty equipment on a vehicle such as a burned out head or tail light.  During hours of darkness, beat constables would ‘skulk’ around and do property checks. They were to be familiar with the call box locations on their beat, call in every hour, and to watch for the flashing lights mounted on top of the call boxes which indicated they were needed for a specific duty on their beat.

If a beat officer encountered a drunk individual the officer was expected to call for the paddy wagon or a patrol car to assist in transporting the drunk to the drunk tank.  Back in the seventies that actually meant a  drunk tank on the 4th floor at the Public Safety Building.

As a rule, beat officers patrolled by themselves and were not normally dispatched to calls for service. Those assigned to Beats 1 and 2, however, were assigned in pairs to walk Main Street – two officers on the east side of the street and two officers on the west side. Beats 1 and 2 were part of the notorious Main Street strip (the drag) that was home to a large number of hotels like the McLaren (which still exists), the Brunswick, the National, the Occidental, the Patricia and the Mount Royal. Officers assigned to these two beats saw a lot of action in the form of alcohol fuelled disputes, thefts, robberies and assaults.

The biggest ‘sin’ a beat officer could commit (well actually there were several), was to not call in every hour as required, to miss a flashing light, or to not be available for an ‘officer’s visit’.  An officer’s visit was a visit from the Patrol Sergeant whose job it was to roam the streets (in a car) and check on the well-being of beat officers as well as to ensure they were on their designated beats.  And lastly, and in the eyes of some Patrol Sergeants, the most important thing was that the beat officer was to never leave his or her assigned beat area.

Back in the 70’s and 80’s being assigned to beat patrol put you at the very bottom of the pecking order. Beat patrol was a rite of passage, something you needed to work your way through before you were assigned to a ‘cruiser car’.

Because beat officers lacked mobility and were considered ‘non dispatchable resources’, it does not come as a big surprise that as the volume of calls for service grew, beat officers were removed from the beat and assigned to cars. Once assigned to cars they became dispatchable resources.

The next post will look at the advent of community policing in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s and the move to return officers to the beat.

Taking Care of Business in the North End: Again

While the  crime rate (for the crimes types reported on Crimestat) in north Winnipeg (police District 3) is basically static a study of specific north end neighbourhoods shows a much different picture.  Crime in neighbourhoods in close proximity to William Whyte is showing a disturbing trend.  The crime rate in these high crime neighbourhoods is rising, in some case dramatically.

The recent multiple shootings in the north end have again focused attention on this part of the city.  It is unfortunate that the only time these high crime neighbourhoods get attention is in times of tragedy.

The map below depicts the crimes tracked on Crimestat for the south-east portion of District 3.

Source:  Winnipeg Police Crimestat

The crime rate in these neighbourhoods is such that the icons depicting the various crimes overlap each other and it is difficult to appreciate the severity of the problem.  For the sake of clarity one needs to eliminate some of the crime types.  The image below illustrates the violent crimes (murder, shootings, robberies and sexual assault) for the area in question.

Source:  Winnipeg Police Crimestat

A further examination of the crime trend in seven specific north end neighbourhoods shows the following increases:

Neighbourhood 2010 Year to Date October 2009 toOctober 2010
William Whyte 1% 5%
Dufferin 11% 18%
Burrows Central 15% 13%
Robertson 25% 25%
Inkster-Farady 38% 30%
St. John’s 23% 26%
Luxton 16% 32%

Source:  Winnipeg Police Crimestat

The important issue with these data is not so much the actual increase but rather the trend they represent.  Increased crime in high crime neighbourhood or a cluster of neighbourhoods clearly demonstrates the area is not-self sustaining and needs help.  The approach currently employed in these neighbourhoods is not working

The north end communities clustered around the William Whyte have received sporadic attention over the past couple of years usually related to tragedies such as shootings and homicides.  When tragedies occur everyone (the police, the mayor and other civic and provincial politicians and the media) expresses outrage and vows are made to leave no stone unturned to bring the killer(s) to justice.  As indicated in a previous post the police flood the area with additional personnel and the hunt is on.

Such a sudden influx of police resources is in and of itself not a bad strategy, in the short-term.  It becomes problematic when it is the only strategy.  Flooding high crime neighbourhoods with additional police resources drawn from other areas (operational and geographic) is not a sustainable strategy nor is it a strategy that addresses the long-term needs of the neighbourhood and its residents.

Earlier this year police resources were shifted from the north end (and other parts of the city) to the west end to deal with shootings there.  Now resources are being shifted away from the west end back to the north end.  This endless cycle of shifting  resources to deal with emergency situations that crop up is symptomatic of a poorly planned (or unplanned ad hoc and reactive) approach to dealing with crime in high crime neighbourhoods.

The secondary flaw in the constant shifting of resources strategy is its reliance on using a strict law enforcement approach to address a much broader social issue.  You may be able to apply a strict law enforcement approach and arrest you way out of a purely law enforcement issue but you cannot arrest your way out of a social issue.

The problem is that many tradition bound police executives are tethered to the strict law enforcement approach.  They are not adequately familiar with cutting edge approaches to neighbourhood redevelopment and neighbourhood capacity building. Many don’t see that as a policing function.  It may not be a policing function in the strict sense of the word, but what neighbourhood capacity building does is it empowers people and helps prevent crime.  Based on the policing principles laid down by Sir Robert Peel (which in my view are still very applicable today) the prime mandate of the police is crime prevention.

The important issue is not how you strengthen neighbourhoods and reduce and prevent crime but rather that you do it. For high crime neighbourhoods in Winnipeg if that means the police need to go down ‘the road less travelled’, then let the journey begin.

The nature of the issue (problem) must dictate the approach.  As well the nature of the issue must determine the timeline.  Complicated social issues cannot be resolved using simplistic short-term strategies and tactics.

The question is this:  is the Winnipeg Police Service willing to make the leap from using a traditional short-term reactive law enforcement approach to dealing with issues in high crime neighbourhoods to using a long-term proactive approach?

The Service certainly has the tools, the personnel and the budget to make it happen.  The question is: do they have the will?

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.

Using Crimestat to Best Advantage

What is Crimestat and how does it work – a brief history

On July 26th 2006 Council passed a resolution that directed the Administration to report back to Executive Policy Committee (EPC) and the Standing Committee on Protection and Community Services on the following:

What, if any, additional resources will be required to develop and implement a COMPSTAT style management and accountability mechanism that will provide weekly updates to citizens on crime trends on a geographical basis across each of the Police Districts; and, propose how the existing Police Command structure with its specialized operational units can be augmented by weekly organizational and strategy meetings chaired by the Chief of Police to respond to crime and safety concerns across each geographical districts and coordinate Clean Sweep Task Force Operations; and

How the Administration proposes to measure Police Service outcomes related to crime prevention and enhancement of neighborhood safety.

This direction resulted in the preparation and submission of a report outlining a Neighborhood Safety and Crime Prevention initiative which became known as Crimestat.

The nuts and bolts of the Crimestat initiative are contained in a report from the Police Service to Standing Committee dated January 5th 2007   which can be accessed at:

http://www.winnipeg.ca/clkdmis/ViewDoc.asp?DocId=6830&SectionId=&InitUrl=  (look under Reports at the top of the page and scroll down to #85)

For the casual observer, Crimestat is simply a website that displays crime statistics and crime maps.  For police, it’s significance is far greater.  Crimestat is a management and accountability strategy that directs police commanders to concentrate on emerging crime issues and trends in the area under their command.  It forces them to track criminal activity in their area, identify emerging crime trends, develop effective tactics, and deploy resources quickly to deal with emerging trends in their early stages before they develop into a full blown crime spree.  Lastly, there is follow-up and assessment by the executive.  This is the accountability feature of the process that ensures everyone (commanders in particular) have their eyes ‘focused on the ball’, the ball being crime prevention and crime reduction.

When Crimestat was introduced in Winnipeg in 2007 many were convinced that it could be a useful tool to prevent crime, not in the traditional crime prevention sense in terms of programming, but rather in an operational sense.  What is visible on the public side of the Crimestat site is less detailed than what is available on the police side.  If one studies the numbers (on the police side), specific crime trends can be seen developing in specific areas of the city.  These trends can be nipped in the bud so to speak, largely by identifying and arresting perpetrators.  These preemptive arrests prevent the trend from continuing and reduce the amount of crime.  It’s not the be all and end all but it is a valuable tool.  Like any tool, though, in order for it to work effectively a few basic rules must be followed.

Here is an illustration of how it works:  Using the neighbourhood of South Point Douglas as an example we can go back and have a look at the early stages of what looks to be a pattern of commercial break-ins.

Going back to July of  2009 (on the public site of the Crimestat site you can only go back one year) we see that during the months of July there were 3 break-ins in South Point Douglas.

For the sake of this exercise we will make that the starting point of a ‘trend’.  

July 2009 (3 break-ins)

Source: Winnipeg Police Crimestat website

August 2009  (3 break-ins)

Source:  Winnipeg Police Crimestat website

September 2009   (6 break-ins)

Source:  Winnipeg Police Crimestat website

This trend continued with 0 in October, 3 in November, 1 in December, 3 in January, 0 in February, 4 in March, 2 in April and 5 in May.

At the end of almost a year the crime map for South Point Douglas looks like this:

July 1st 2009 to May 30th 2010

Source:  Winnipeg Police Crimestat website

During that 11 month period there were 30 commercial break-ins in the South Point Douglas neighbourhood.

Police Commanders are provided with this information virtually in real time.  As a trend such as this one develops, commanders assign resources and tactics are developed.  That is, if the series of events is recognized as a trend.  Because there is a high likelihood that these 30 break-ins in close proximity to each other were not committed by 30 different perpetrators but rather by 1 or a group of individuals known to each other, the trend can be halted by identifying and arresting that individual  or group of individuals.

Had that been done back in  July of 2009 when the first break-ins in South Point Douglas occurred the next 30 could perhaps  have been prevented.

That is a simplistic example of how division commanders can use Crimestat to prevent crime.  The principle can be applied to other crimes at the community level.

Crimestat was designed to be a tool to track crime in our city’s neighbourhoods.  It does that very well.  The process has a proven record in helping to combat crime throughout major cities in North America.  In order for it to be  effective the tool must be used in the manner it was designed to be used.  All players in the system must understand and execute their roles.  Division Commanders must stay on top of crime in their area, identify trends and devise effective tactics to deal with them.  The Police Executive must be fully engaged and ensure the resource is used as intended.

The executive of the Winnipeg Police Service does not appear to understand or appreciate the capabilities of Crimestat and that could explain why they have largely turned their backs on it.  A key aspect of the Crimestat process centers on  accountability.  The Executive needs to hold Division Commanders accountable. Accountability is exercised most visibly during Crimestat meetings.  That cannot happen if the Executive does not attend Crimestat meetings.   Residents of Winnipeg have a vested interest in the overall safety of all neighbourhoods.

Winnipeggers need Crimestat to work.

Where Crime is Taking Place

All it takes is a glance at the Winnipeg Police Crimestat website to see that there is no real surprise here in terms of the recent shootings in the City’s West End.  And certainly no need on the part of the police to be shocked as they recently claimed.

When it comes to homicides, shootings, sexual assaults and muggings (the four main crime types being tracked by Crimestat that are classified as  “crimes against persons”), Crimestat tells the public exactly what most police officers working in Divisions 11 and 13 are already aware of.  These four specific types of crime occur with alarming frequency in Districts 1 and 3 and more specifically in rather small geographical areas within those two Districts.  As seen below, the first Crimestat map makes that point:

City wide map showing homicides, shootings, sexual assaults and muggings from June 16th 2009 to June 14th 2010.

Source:  Winnipeg Police Crimestat website

The above map shows two very distinct data clusters, one in District 3 and an even larger one in District 1.  The two maps below show a close up of those two areas and leave no doubt as to the high number of homicides, muggings, shootings and sexual assaults.

Crimestat map showing homicides, shootings, sexual assaults and muggings in a portion of District 1 for the period June 16th 2009 and June 14th 2010.

Source:  Winnipeg Police Crimestat website

Crimestat map for a portion of District 3 depicting the same four offences for the same period:

Source:  Winnipeg Police Service Crimestat website

These two Districts, and primarily the concentrated areas of the two districts shown above,  account for  70% of all homicides,  68% of  muggings, 55% of sexual assaults and 88% of all shootings in the entire city for the period between June 16th 2009 and June 14th 2010.

Still shocked about what happened recently in the West End?

The police response has been predictable.  More officers, more guns, more arrests, more seizures.  In other words, more visible evidence of police activity.   In the next little while we will be seeing reports and statistics outlining those numbers as a testament to the efficiency and effectiveness of the approach being taken by police.

Ask yourself, is it really effective in a long term sense?  Can you arrest your way out of a social problem?

Sir Robert Peel suggested a measurement to test police efficiency that concentrated not on statistics listing police activities but rather a measurement of the level of crime (or lack thereof) in the community.  Peel’s Ninth principle says:

To recognize always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.

Let’s make sure we don’t get too dazzled by the activity.  Let’s look down the road and measure what is being done in the West End based on outcomes.  In  this case, the absence of crime.