Monday, January 27, 2014

Hot spot policing undergoes changes

The below article is from the January edition of our monthly newsletter, the Informant:

The department’s hot spot policing initiative got kicked up a notch on Jan. 1, with hundreds more officers now working to stop violence in the city’s most troubled neighborhoods.

Chief Darryl Forté launched hot spot policing in May 2012, pulling officers and sergeants in non-patrol positions onto the streets 20 nights a year. Their goal was to combat violent crime in the areas of the city most plagued with it in the Central, East and Metro patrol divisions. The initiative did an admirable job increasing police presence and deterring crime, but Chief Forté realized some changes were needed.

Approximately 340 officers and sergeants now are in the rotation to work hot spot areas. That’s nearly twice as many as last year. The additional help means more officers in troubled neighborhoods at the most key times – 3 to 11 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Officer Tommy Woods, special projects coordinator in the Chief’s Office, said this is increasing positive contacts with residents. It’s also lightened the load for department members trying to juggle hot spot assignments with their regular duties. Each officer and sergeant now only works hot spots six days per year instead of 20. Previously exempt groups like violent and property crimes detectives, traffic investigators and pretty much everyone besides under-cover detectives now are in the mix.

In addition to crime suppression, Chief Forté had another motive for getting as many members patrolling hot spots as possible. In the event of a critical incident, he said he wants every law enforcement member on the department to be able to operate inside a police vehicle and use all the technology therein. This has led to another change: more training for officers who have been out of the field for a while.

Staff in the Police Academy, Chief’s Office and Patrol Bureau have created a new “Street Reboot” course for officers. It familiarizes them with in-car technology like dash-cam video and e-ticketing as well as other department technology like booking and reporting systems.

“The class already is filled to capacity in January and February,” Officer Woods said.

But perhaps the biggest change to the hot spot initiative is the new emphasis on intelligence and providing a clearer direction for what officers should be doing, Woods said. Before, officers were presented with broad goals including reducing homicides and violent crimes, building relationships and visibility.

The Law Enforcement Resource Center now provides current crime information to officers working hot spots at the revamped weekly IRIS (Incident Review and Information Sharing) meetings. The meetings have been moved to Thursday afternoons to provide officers going out on hot spot assignments the next day with up-to-date information about suspects and witnesses who need to be located, warrant information and probation and parole information.

Two officers who attended these meetings, which just started in January, already have used the information presented to track down two wanted suspects. One was wanted for an attempted sexual assault in which he broke through a woman’s apartment window to attack her. The sergeant who found him said he’d heard the man’s description in the IRIS meeting and recognized him when he saw him walking down the street.

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