Essay Example on COMPSTAT and Crime Mapping

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Harvey Mudd College
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Computerized Statistics (COMPSTAT), a very efficient management model was developed in New York City in 1994 as a procedure for the control of crime and quality of life. The New York Police Department (NYPD) developed COMPSTAT following their need to curb the spiraling crime rates and be able to fulfill their obligation to the people which is to keep them safe by lowering violence and crime. COMPSTAT involves comparing comparison of computer data, hence the name. Police forces are placed strategically relative to crime rates to reduce crime incidences theoretically (Ritschard, Studer & Pisetta, 2008). COMPSTAT has been very efficient in the accomplishment of its initial objectives which was to reduce crime and violence. Over the years, the problems facing the Police Department have also changed. Crime has been reduced to manageable levels, and new issues have emerged. These issues include management problems. COMPSTAT management model though complex, has become a notably adaptable paradigm that has been applied in the resolution of a range of challenges and the management of police functions. Before COMPSTAT, the police had very insufficient access to crime data. Lack of information on crime made operations inefficient. With the coming of COMPSTAT, this was solved (Bratton & Malinowski, 2008).I will be discussing the positive and negative effects of COMPSTAT in this paper. I will also recommend how I believe crime mapping should be used today. I will also be discussing the particular challenges that may be encountered in the implementation of COMPSTAT and its limitations in use for crime mapping.

COMPSTAT has some core principles. The first principle is that the police have what it takes to make a difference in crime rates (Bratton & Malinowski, 2008).The second is that it recognizes that in most occasions, the middle managers are in a better position to make decisions on a day to day operations relative to headquarters executives. Thirdly, accountability is key to performance. Accountability may be used to reward or punish members. Lastly, it is in agreement that in a high-performance organization, boxes and lines are of no relevance (Ritschard, Studer & Pisetta, 2008).

There is a great difference in what was perceived to be the cause of crime before the advent of COMPSTAT and after its advent. While initially the belief that crime is caused by social, demographic, economic, and ethnographic factors. The idea that the police can control causes of crime had a great impact on how the crime was tackled. It was established that the police play a significant role in crime prevention and that behavior can be modified and crime controlled. While initially, the role of police was majorly responding to crime, with the advent of COMPSTAT the police started playing the role of crime prevention (Ritschard, Studer & Pisetta, 2008).

COMPSTAT promotes effectiveness and not just activity and response to crime. The decrease in crime rates was accomplished as a result of various factors. These include more accurate and timed intelligence, quick deployment, tactics that are effective, and relentless follow-ups on crimes that are committed. The follow-up is to try and identify and arrest the perpetrators of crime and to prevent the re-occurrence of offense.

COMPSTAT may not produce the same results in different areas. The reason is cultural differences, bureaucratic restrictions, and budget limitations. The factors explain why what worked in New York did not give the same outcome in Los Angeles. An improved version of COMPSTAT referred to as COMPSTAT plus was established in Los Angeles. The efficiency of COMPSTAT plus was based on: diagnostic activity to determine the cause of underperformance, dialog with stakeholders to agree on the findings, and affected commands were assigned the task of coming up with their plan of action.

COMPSTAT is not limited to numbers but is more concerned with accountability. A subordinate should, therefore, take caution not to be trapped in the process of preparing for COMPSTAT meetings and also those in charge should not take the time during meetings to subject field commanders to harassing or embarrassing questions. It is a means of measuring success, inspiring success, and converting underperformance into accomplishments.

There are pros and cons of COMPSTAT. The pros, however, outweigh the cons. COMPSTAT has more beneficial than adverse effects, which has resulted in its dramatic success and a dramatic reduction in crime rates. There were, however, a few problems encountered in the implementation of COMPSTAT. One was the fear of accountability by managers and supervisors. Some supervisors and managers did not possess the necessary skills for the commanding officers assignment (Ritschard, Studer & Pisetta, 2008). The lack of expertise led to their exit from the job, or they were transferred to a department in which they were more qualified. There was also the problem of previous management. People were very used to to the old system, and like any other form of change, this one was resisted initially.

COMPSTAT has a few disadvantages. The first one is that an activity like stop and frisk may profile some groups of people unfairly. Some police officers could also manipulate the data being fed into the COMPSTAT database.

There are several gains from COMPSTAT. It could scare away potential criminals by having police patrol in areas that are more prone to crime. Hotspots in which crime is committed is displayed. Identification of hotspots enhances prevention and response to crime. It enables the police to be strategically placed facilitating the prevention of the offense. COMPSTAT also indicates crime patterns which are crucial in the reduction of crime. It also provides timely and accurate intelligence necessary for effective management process. The information includes time, location, type and motive of crimes. Another advantage of COMPSTAT is that it is simple in design, straightforward and user-friendly therefore almost everyone can understand it.

There is general agreement between the two articles that COMPSTAT has resulted in a great reduction in crime rates and that the benefits of COMPSTAT in management outweighs its disadvantages.

Crime mapping used today makes use of technology. It uses off-the-shelf mapping program. The program generates computer-based maps of every region in the locale. These are viewed on a computer screen or printed. It makes use of the information in the COMPSTAT database to depict the seven major crimes separately. The crimes could also be portrayed by day of the week they occur or by the time of the day in which they occur. With the developments made to include a wider range of information in the database, for example, all locations of facilities that could affect in the crime equation and past and current drug arrests. The maps and layers permit an examination of the existing relationship between crime place and time identifying hot-spot clusters of crimes immediately and the possible times of crime occurrence. With more information being fed into the COMPSTAT database, specific information such as the age of the offender can be obtained (Ritschard, Studer & Pisetta, 2008). An example is mapping being used to depict the time at which robbery near a school takes place. This and also the age of the perpetrators of the offense would be useful in establishing whether those involved are teens and whether it has to do with truancy. Crime mapping is essential in that it enables commanders to ensure the proper deployment of their personnel and their efficient working to produce the greatest immediate effect. Unless the specific symptoms are known, the prescription of an adequate remedy is impossible (Bratton & Malinowski, 2008).

The use of COMPSTAT in crime mapping should be appropriate to minimize any possible errors. It should be monitored to ensure that there is no incorrect or unfair profiling of a particular group of people. It should also be ensured that there is no manipulation of data being entered into the database. COMPSTAT principles of ensuring accountability should be made use of in crime mapping. The patterns of crime, information on the location of the crime, and information about the perpetrator of an offense should be made use of in crime mapping. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) should also be made use of in criminal mapping. Underlying theories such as environmental criminology by Patricia and Paul Brantingham, routine activity theory forwarded by Marcus Felson and Lawrence Cohen, and rational choice theory by Derek Cornish and Ronald V. Clarke ought to be utilized too. Web-based crime mapping should be devoted to community policing instead of analytical roles such as prediction and pattern analysis.


Bratton, W. J., & Malinowski, S. W. (2008). Police performance management in practice: Taking COMPSTAT to the next level. Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice, 2(3), 259-265. doi:10.1093/police/pan036

Ritschard, G., Studer, M., & Pisetta, V. (2008). Strategies in Identifying Issues Addressed in Legal Reports. COMPSTAT 2008, 277-288. doi:10.1007/978-3-7908-2084-3_23

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