Compstat Policing: Definition, Process & Model

Instructor: Justin Reynolds
Compstat is a tool that helps police officers fight crime. This lesson will outline what Compstat is, how it works, and how police department use it to improve their staff knowledge and outcomes.

What is Compstat?

Imagine you are going to the grocery store for your monthly shopping. When you get to the store there are no signs above or at the end of the isle to show you where things are. While you might get lucky and find some things by guessing, you would most likely waste a lot of time walking up and down the isles hoping to find what you need.

This is similar to what police work was like before Compstat. Compstat, in law enforcement, stands for 'Computer Statistics' dealing specifically with crime.

Most companies throughout the world have used computer generated statistics for years to track how successful their company is doing. But, it wasn't until 1994, when Compstat was developed, that police departments around the country started doing the same thing to help track how successful they were in fighting crime.

Origins

So where did Compstat come from? Well, recognizing that there are not enough police to be everywhere at once, officers would drive around their area of responsibility hoping to be in the right place at the right time to stop a crime. This style of policing was not very effective.

In the 1990s the New York Police Department was determined to reduce crime. But, it realized it had no way to accurately track crime and no real plan on how to reduce it. The information on where and when crime was happening was too old to be useful and wasn't very accurate. This is when Compstat was developed to help reduce crime.

The NY Police Department started Compstat in the 1990s
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Goals

The goals of Comstat are to gather timely and accurate information and intelligence. This intelligence is then used to rapidly deploy the officers working the streets to the area where the crime is occurring. It also focuses on effective police tactics and follow-up in the area.

So what does this mean and how does it work?

When a crime happens, the police department will immediately put all of the information about the crime into a computer program. This program will map out the crime to show where and when it is happening.

The officers who can best address the crime problem will be deployed to the area where the crime is happening. For example, if it's a drug problem, drug units will be deployed. If the officers do not know how to address the issue, they will be trained how to do so. Leaders in the department will then follow-up on the area to see if there is less crime and make sure it does not move to another area.

Follow-Ups

What does the follow-up consist of? Well, it allows leaders in the police department to go over the crime in their area of responsibility, discuss how they are addressing the crime, and to ensure the crime is not just being pushed to another location.

Let's see how the Police Department in Anytown, USA does it. Major Smith commands the southern district of Anytown and is heading to her weekly Compstat meeting.

She's had an increase of robberies at the Midtown Mall, which falls within her area of responsibility, between the hours of 7 and 8 pm. During the meeting the Chief asks her what her deployment plan is to combat the increase in crime.

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