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Crime in cities: America’s safer streets

The Economist: United States
August 23, 2012
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HIGH-SPEED car chases, shoot-outs, dealing with politicians: life for a Los Angeles police officer can be trying. Yet for sheer stress little can compete with the ordeal of the Compstat meeting. Every seven weeks bureau commanders are grilled by a senior panel, often including the police chief himself, on the whys and wherefores of crime in their jurisdictions. They are expected to have an on-the-spot grasp of the statistics: if there has been a spike in burglaries from vehicles, the captain’s interrogators will want to know what is being done about it. There is no hiding from the numbers: data-laden documents are distributed before the meeting, and overhead map projections pinpoint the sites of individual incidents in pitiless detail. The pressure has reduced officers to tears.Although some think Compstat introduces incentives for police to fiddle the figures (or “juke the stats”), most analysts agree that it has improved the effectiveness and efficiency of the police in Los Angeles, and other cities with similar systems. (Compstat was brought to Los Angeles from New York by Bill Bratton, a tough-talking police...



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