Eliminating crime

New book looks at the seven essentials to beating back the criminal element

Between 1995 and 2009, school children in Vancouver, Delta and Surrey were being followed on their way home and sexually assaulted.

The attacker was becoming increasingly dangerous, and police feared fatalities were sure to follow.

The three municipalities created a joint operation called Project Scourge which determined it was a single attacker.

During the investigation, the team identified 561 potential suspects, but DNA analysis ruled out all of them.

Two crime analysts, Special Const. Ryan Prox and Sgt. Milena Bruns, began working on the file.

They collected vast amounts of pertinent data – including geographic patterns, cell phone pings from area towers, offenders’ methods and paradigms – and fed them into a geographic program with the Vancouver Police Department.

That was cross referenced with a provincial data gathering system.

In eight weeks, the analysts came up with the name of a man who matched 98 per cent of the necessary criteria.

The role of analysts were still new to policing, but one of them was able to convince senior cops to commit resources to the possible lead.

Surveillance began, and shortly after, police picked up a cup discarded by the suspect.

DNA on the cup was a perfect match to those collected from the crime scenes, and Ibata Hexamer (who eventually pleaded guilty) was arrested.

“Had we not been called in and applied our approach to it, and they stayed with traditional policing investigative techniques on this file, we might not have caught him on the second hit, or the next, or the next,” VPD Special Const. Ryan Prox said in the book. “And he was escalating, he was probably going to kill next… “

The case-in-point for the role of crime analysts is part of a book released this week called Eliminating Crime: The Seven Essential Principals of Police-based Crime Reduction outlines the fundamentals of policing required for our time.

The book is written by criminologists Dr. Irwin Cohen, Dr. Darryl Plecas, Amanda McCormick and Adrienne Peters.

(Cohen is currently reviewing Surrey RCMP’s detachment operations).

The book was published by Surrey Fire Chief Len Garis.

The book echoes what SFU criminologist Rob Gordon told The Leader last week: that more police is not necessarily the answer to crime reduction. Better and more intelligent policing is.

The book recommends police use seven approaches, including being information-led, intelligence-led, focusing on offenders and problems, developing meaningful partnerships, being preemptive and being performance based.

Information-led policing involves hitting prolific offenders hard where they do business. It’s the way Kamloops lowered it’s national crime ranking between 2009 and 2013.

Prolific offenders were tracked down and given three choices: clean up their act, get out of town or go to jail. The approach involves knowing the offenders and the communities where they do their crimes.

“When police are out of touch with or unaware of community concerns, it can result in a lack of support for and confidence in police,” the book states.

Prolific offenders can account for 50 to 75 per cent of crime in a community. So the book recommends focusing on those to most effectively reduce crime.

Instead of waiting for them to commit a crime, pounce on them as soon as they are in breach of a probation order.

Abbotsford has been successful using the strategy, reducing home break and enters by 45 per cent and business break ins by 70 per cent.

Focusing on the problem is also effective, as it was in Surrey when the fire department and bylaws shut down most of Surrey’s marijuana grow operations.

Tracking the homes by their Hydro usage, the teams put a warning on the door saying they would be back to inspect.

Most shut down.

Partnerships are crucial, the book says, pointing squarely at the examples set by Surrey and Vancouver in their work with the mentally ill.

Instead of watching the rotating door of the hospital or jail, Surrey RCMP Const. Taylor Quee worked with health officials to get people the help they needed.

What occurred was a more humane approach to dealing with the mentally challenged, freeing up police resources.

Being pre-emptive means watching crime trends and stopping them before they get out of control. It involves tracking prolific offenders, but also stopping individuals for street checks. Ten per cent of those checks result in arrests and charges.

The book also calls for a performance-based approach to policing, where every move will mean results. The method helps police understand their goals and helps management with deployment and scheduling decisions.

The book also encourages policy makers not to reduce the size of a police force once they see results.

“With few exceptions, the gains made in crime reduction have been achieved by having the necessary resources to deal with current and emerging problems,” the book states.

The 147-page book was released on Monday, and can be downloaded from this web address: http://blogs.ufv.ca/blog/2014/08/new-book-ufv-authors-reveals-key-principles-police-based-crime-reduction/

 

 

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