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Cops Playing with Statistics

Taking a page from Chicago? (Crime capital of U.S.)

Brian Dueck

The cops fail to mention that they have more superintendents than most Canadian city forces (Eleven counted last year compared with four in Toronto). Each super gets a salary in the $90-100,000 range. Brian Dueck is the highest paid superintendent.

The PR fed to a willing reporter also fails to seriously look at Saskatoon's west side where crime has risen. Many neighbourhoods which were previously safe are now dangerous. Drugs are rampant. Break and enters of private homes are rampant. Crazy attacks as you are walking down the street are rampant.

The Saskatoon Police Service has a totally corrupt super at the top. We know that he is an expert in deciding which evidence to give to crown prosecutors and which to "hold back." It is far easier to do this with statistics.

We also know that there is no record of Darrell Night being picked up. This is one stat which wasn't entered anywhere in the system. How many more are there? Who is really in charge?

-- Sheila Steele

City cops do more with less Saskatoon's funding measured against other Canadian cities

Saskatoon Police crest

The Saskatoon Police Service deals with more crime, but has less per capita funding than many of its Canadian counterparts, according to a benchmark survey that will be presented to the board of police commissioners on Thursday.

The report, prepared by KPMG Consulting, compares the Saskatoon Police Service with eight other police services across the country: Edmonton, Halifax, Ottawa, Peel, Saint John, Vancouver, Windsor and Winnipeg.

According to the report, in 2000 Saskatoon shared the highest total crime rate per 100,000 people with Vancouver, at 13,766 incidents.

"This is significantly above the average for all police service areas at 9,643 incidences," the report states.

"Total" crime is derived from the combination of violent, property and other crime. The total crime rate in Halifax that year was 11,966 per 100,000 population, followed by Winnipeg at 10,902.

But while city police deal with a high crime rate, the report also indicates that Saskatoon still spent less per capita on police services than the average for the other cities.

Saskatoon spent $154 per capita compared to $188 for the other services. However, the report points out that Saskatoon still spent a "high proportion of their city budget on police services" in 2000.

"Saskatoon had the second-highest proportion of the city budget dedicated to police services," it states.

"The total police budget represented 21 per cent of Saskatoon's total city budget. This was much higher than the 14 per cent average for all police services."

In 2000, the City of Saskatoon had a budget of more than $150 million. Of the total city budget, police services received more than $31 million, according to the report.

Saskatoon Police Chief Russell Sabo said in an interview on Monday the police service is "currently under-resourced" and the possibility of hiring more officers will be examined.

"That's one of the things we're going to be looking at with the board of commissioners and the members of council," he said. "As a group, we're going to have to come to terms with what the community needs and the organization needs to help us move forward."

But Sabo said it's only by addressing the underlying social factors that cause crime -- such as poverty, unemployment and a lack of education -- that crime can be reduced.

"You can have all the police officers in the world, you can have a police officer on every corner. That is not going to make crime go away.

"What we have to do is we have to look at solving the problems."

As well, the average speed of answer for 911 calls in the Saskatoon Police Service communication centre is 5.3 seconds, compared to the average for all services of 3.8 seconds.

Another finding in the report is the Saskatoon Police Service had a "lower than average level of satisfaction among the public" in 2000.

About 60 per cent of the public in Saskatoon reported being satisfied or very satisfied with their police service, compared to the average for all services of 77 per cent, according to the report.

Sabo said it may be due to "what people see in the media.

"We have a very good department with excellent people. There's some historical things we're dealing with and I recognize they have to be reported on, but we also have to recognize the goods things that are happening in the city as well."

A bitter division between the police and many Natives was exposed two years ago, after two city officers abandoned Darrell Night, a First Nations man, on the outskirts of the city late on a cold winter night.

The revelation, followed by the discovery of the frozen bodies of two other Native men, Lawrence Wegner and Rodney Naistus, set off a firestorm of controversy.

"What we've got to do is overcome some of the things that have happened in the past," Heidt said. "There's no doubt some of the tragedies that have happened in our city here have had an impact on that study. I'm not going to put my head in the sand and say everything is all rosy in this city, because it's not.

"But I think we're (moving) in the right direction."

Chicago's Finest?

Crime: The murder rate in Chicago is three times that in New York City. And Chicago's "diversity" minded government seems to like it that way

New crime figures are in. And Chicago has earned the dubious honor. It will top the nation in murders this year. As of last Wednesday, there were 648 murders in Chicago up by 19 over last year. There were 619 in NYC where three times as many people live.

In 1993 (the last year of Mayor Dinkins' administration) there were 1927 murders in NYC. That's when Rudy Giuliani and Police Commissioner Bratton arrived on the scene to take charge and reduce crime. And they did. One way was paying close attention to small things like fare jumping in the subways, jaywalking, loitering, vandalism. That led to lots of stopping of suspects, warrant checks, and arrests. A lot of very bad people do very stupid "small" things in addition to their big crimes. That's when they get caught. Another way was making each precinct commander accountable for the crime rate in their precincts.

Crime fell, murders by 70%. Serious crime in Central Park fell by 64% in 30 months. New York's enforcement policy saved over a thousand lives, among them the very people allegedly victimized by the police.

Now what about Chicago, with three times as many murders per citizen? Thomas Needham, Chief of Staff for the Chicago PD says NYPD has its priorities all wrong. "(Crime statistics) were the sole judge of whether New York was succeeding as a police department," Needham told the Chicago Tribune. "We've never done that in Chicago. We believe there is this other aspect of police work that doesn't lend itself to ready statistical analysis -- how do we relate to a diverse population and what does the general public think of the job we are doing."

We wonder how those who were murdered on his watch "think" about the job Chicago's finest are doing. Funny, we thought police work was about fighting crime.

Ed Note: Hey Chief Needham: Why don't you ask the "general public" what kind of a job the NYPD is doing? You might want to ask the "diverse population" the same question. And, by the way chief, what exactly is the difference between a "diverse population" and the " general public"? And can you explain how, on your watch, Chicago became the murder capitol of America? Chief, you would be thrown out of an NYPD COMPSTAT proceeding.

Read the Chicago Tribune Story below.

City to get a dubious title: No. 1 in murder

With less than two weeks left in the year, Chicago is poised to overtake New York for only the second time on record and log the most homicides of any city in the nation.

Chicago had recorded 648 slayings through Wednesday. New York, with three times as many residents, had 619 killings. Equally troubling is that Chicago homicides are up this year--there were 629 killings in 2000--after falling every year since 1994.

"Nobody's happy about it," said Thomas Needham, the Chicago Police Department's chief of staff. "But in the big picture, we hope everyone keeps it in perspective. There are still 200 to 300 less murders every year than there was in the late 1980s or early 1990s."

The numbers also raise questions about how New York has been able to slash homicides by 70 percent between 1993 and 2000 while Chicago only recorded a 33 percent drop.

At issue is which crime fighting philosophy works best. Chicago has embraced community policing--building relationships with citizens and neighborhood groups through regular meetings with beat officers.

Other cities have taken different approaches and, like New York, have recorded bigger statistical drops than Chicago. In Boston, police enlist ministers and have sit-downs with gangs or drug dealers and promise a crackdown if the violence continues.

When Rudolph Giuliani was elected New York's mayor in 1993, the former federal prosecutor had a mandate to reduce crime and adopted the controversial "broken windows" policy. New York had 1,927 slayings that year.

Major crime, he reasoned, begins with petty crime, so the idea was to cut crime off at its lowest level. Police aggressively stopped citizens on the street and searched for weapons. There were arrests for vandalism and jaywalking, street corner gatherings were broken up. Precinct commanders who couldn't reduce crime were replaced.

Crime plummeted, but critics said it created a police state, violated civil liberties and damaged relations with minority groups. The policy was also partially blamed for several high profile brutality cases and the killing of an unarmed man who was shot 41 times by officers.

"It won't fly here," Northwestern University criminologist Wesley Skogan said of the zero tolerance approach. Skogan has studied Chicago's community policing and says there are importance differences between Chicago and New York.

City and civic leaders wouldn't risk the downside of a crackdown, Skogan said, and pulling it off would be difficult. New York is more densely populated, with 41,000 officers patrolling 300 square miles whereas Chicago has about 13,500 officers for 227 square miles.

Needham, the Chicago police chief of staff, agrees. A zero tolerance crackdown, especially in high crime areas, would ruin relationships the department has struggled to build with the public, he said.

"[Crime statistics] were the sole judge of whether or not New York was succeeding as a police department," Needham said. "We've never done that in Chicago. We believe there is this whole other aspect of police work that doesn't lend itself to ready statistical analysis-- how do we relate with a diverse population and what does the general public think of the job we're doing."

Alfred Blumstein, a criminologist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, said every city needs to experiment and craft a strategy that best fits its makeup.

New York had 2,245 homicides in 1990. Eight years later, Chicago for the first time recorded more slayings than New York--704 to 629. Experts say that is the first time in modern records that New York wasn't No. 1. Chicago's record is 970 killings in 1974.

The toll this year in New York does not include the more than 3,000 people killed in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. They are being treated as casualties of war, not homicides.

Elsewhere, there have been 550 killings in Los Angeles and 425 in Detroit so far this year.

Chicago Police Supt. Terry Hillard and Chief of Detectives Phil Cline said there is no easy way to explain--and combat--the spike in Chicago's murders.

"If I could explain that, I wouldn't be superintendent," Hillard quipped at a recent news conference. "I'd have my own business."

Domestic killings, as well as gang and drug-related slayings, have remained fairly constant with prior years. "It's not one thing we can put our finger on," Cline said.

Many of the theories credited for a national reduction in crime in the 1990s have been floated to explain New York's success--a booming economy, tougher sentencing laws, favorable demographic and population shifts, the waning crack cocaine drug trade.

"Everyone has a different explanation, which means that we have yet to describe it very well," said Eric Monkkonen, a professor at UCLA and an expert on homicide trends in American cities. "It's probably like everything else, that there was 10 causes."

Major crime has decreased in Chicago for the last six years and was down 9 percent in the first nine months of 2001. In New York, overall crime was down 12 percent through Wednesday.

Despite shunning the zero tolerance approach, Chicago has borrowed some ideas from New York. Last year, Deputy Supt. Anthony Chiesa began Chicago's own version of New York's accountability meetings with precinct commanders.

But Chicago's is "a kindlier, gentler version," said Needham. "There's no history of support in this organization for bouncing command level personnel out of their assignments because of the crime rate." (Ed Note: Maybe if you did, chief, some of those 648 dead Chicagoans would be alive today.)