Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Cops Matter. Police Count.

There’s a story on crime reductions in the Los Angeles Times today:
Crime in much of Los Angeles County and elsewhere in Southern California has dropped significantly so far this year, despite an economic meltdown that has pushed unemployment into double digits, imploded the housing market and shuttered countless businesses.

The decline flies in the face of predictions made by many crime experts that the region would probably experience substantial increases in property-related crimes and some types of violence as more people fell into financial hardship (…)

Across the country, however, things are far more uneven. More than 100 large police departments have reported increases in property crimes or robberies this year, according to a survey by a police research group.
San Francisco is one of those cities experiencing a significant drop in crime. Our most recent Citywide Crime Profile showed violent crime down 18% and property crime down 26%. That’s an overall reduction of 25%.

Specifically in violent crime, non-fatal shootings are down 22% compared to 2008 and 37% compared to 2007. Turning to homicides, there have been 11 through the first quarter of the year. This compares to 28 last year and 24 the year before. That’s a reduction of 61% compared to 2008 and of 58% compared to the average of the last two years. Nowhere have these gains been greater than in the Mission District. The Mission sustained 14 homicides through September of last year, but has had only one in the past six months and none thus far in 2009. While we are only three months into 2009, these are significant gains and I know that all our public safety partners are committed to cooperatively furthering them.

These gains are a product of smart and focused policing. The SFPD is now fourteen months into its Zone Strategy, deploying maximum available resources to those areas experiencing a disproportionate amount of crime. Part of this has been a critical focus on community policing – getting out of the cars and working with the community to solve problems.

These gains are also a product of the Department’s focus on rigorously analyzing its strengths and weaknesses. Over the last few years, there have been eight major studies, focused on everything from reducing technology gaps to most efficiently staffing foot patrols to optimally organizing our investigations bureau. These studies have produced over 350 recommendations, many of which are being presently implemented. With more budget cuts ahead of us, using these recommendations as guidelines for efficiency will be even more critical. A large part of this will be how we apply for and utilize those federal stimulus dollars targeted for public safety. Moving forward, we’ll keep you posted on this.

It is important to note that much of this would not be possible without a determined focus on adequately staffing the SFPD – a core commitment of Mayor Newsom.

The above points are part of a larger coordinated criminal justice response. But they highlight a simple point: more police officers, working in more efficient ways, spending more time in the community, can reduce crime. In this, I know that both Mayor Newsom and I agree with Chief Bratton:

"Cops matter. Police count."