Chicago example shows police need to wise up

October 4, 2010 at 4:18 pm 2 comments

The recent report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary shows that the Police in this country see tackling antisocial behaviour as beneath them. Reading this put me in mind of a case study from our radical efficiency work.

Chicago’s Citizen Law Enforcement Analysis and Reporting (CLEAR) is one of the top ten examples of better public service outcomes for much lower cost uncovered by Innovation Unit and NESTA, in the report Radical Efficiency.  

For the last 10 years Chicago Police Department’s (CPD) Research and Development team have been developing the CLEAR system. It allows them to manage crime data better and get new information from CPD officers and the local community.

By increasing the information available to police, CLEAR has made a significant contribution to the reduction of crime through preventative policing. Mapping community concerns and real-time crime scene information enables police officers to better understand where problems are likely to arise, so they can resolve the situation before it gets out of hand. It has simultaneously enabled CPD to reduce clerical staff and officer time spent on administration, and increase time spent on front line policing. In the first three year period of CLEAR, CPD estimates  it has increased officer efficiency by 20% and reduced crime by 16%.

The report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary reveals many UK officers do not regard anti-social behavior as ‘real police work’.  ‘Real’ police work is apparently things like burglary or car break-ins.  But, police in the UK would do well to look at the CLEAR example.

One of the key elements to the success of the project was community engagement.  A lack of trust in police was a previous barrier to this engagement. To tackle this, at every stage of the project there have been long periods of consultation between police and citizens. These discussions, which often involve issues that British police might turn their noses up at, for example around waste and litter in streets, helped CPD police understand residents’ agendas, develop priorities, and devise solutions to problems. More importantly it allowed the police to gain the communities trust and demonstrate the project’s credibility. Once this began the community began to trust the CPD and to help them solve more serious criminal behavior.

So perhaps anti-social behaviour is not as exciting as other types of police work but the CLEAR case shows that it is absolutely vital.

By Sophie Byrne


Entry filed under: Government Departments, National Agencies, Public Services, Radical Efficiency.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. alecpatton  |  October 5, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    Really interesting, but I’m not sure that focusing on ‘anti-social behaviour’ will necessarily build community trust – giving ASBOs to local residents’ kids will not endear the police to them. The key thing, it seems to me, is the sustained consultation with residents about THEIR concerns, be they ever so unglamorous (I’m thinking of Harvey Milk’s campaign against dog poo here – a surefire vote-winner if ever there was one).

    I guess what I’m saying is that there’s a difference between tackling anti-social behaviour and tackling ‘anti-social behaviour’ as defined by Blunkett et al.

  • 2. s1i2b  |  October 5, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    I completely agree that there is an important distinction between the two types of anti-social behaviour. I was indeed mainly talking about anti-social behaviour like litter or dog poo (not ‘anti-social behaviour’). But tackling the former allows CPD officials to then fight the latter.

    The CLEAR project addresses the first initially to gain community trust. They get the relevant city departments to clear up waste or mend street lights. When the community sees that their concerns around this type of anti-social behaviour are being acted upon trust is built.

    And then the community begin to share information with the CPD that allows them to tackle ‘anti-social behaviour’ a la Blunkett. For example members begin to anonymously identify drug dealers that terrorise tower blocks or an ex-boyfriend who is violating a restraining order by lurking aorund a local woman’s home.

    So it is important to tackle both to have real success.


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