Recent FBI statistics show that serious crime has been dropping steadily in U.S. cities since 1990. Certainly, some of the decline can be attributed to continued economic growth, perhaps reinforcing the maxim that a rising tide lifts all boats. But other factors are involved. Social programs funded by block grants and combined with joint public-private-sector partnerships are addressing some of crime's underlying causes. At the other end, aggressive law enforcement and improved police methods are taking more criminals off the streets.
This seems to be the story in Minneapolis. The city has had a strong economy and a broad range of social programs in place for five years. These factors -- combined with community-oriented policing, proactive law enforcement and a GIS application called CODEFOR (Computer Optimized Deployment Focus) -- have significantly reduced crime. In 1998, CODEFOR's first year in operation, serious crime in the city was down 16 percent from the previous year.
According to Amy Phenix, press secretary to Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton, the city's strategy has been to tackle crime from both sides. "On the one hand, aggressive law enforcement; on the other, intervention at the human level, helping more people to achieve self-sufficiency, helping those with chemical dependencies to get into treatment -- focusing on the human condition underlying criminal activity."
The city and county are administering a wide range of social programs, often in collaboration with the private sector. The Minneapolis Employment and Training Department works with employers to help bring the most-difficult-to-employ people -- those with felony records, no work history, little education, and those who speak little English -- into the workforce. A Youth Coordinating Board, with representatives from the respective city, county, library, school and park boards, provides free programs for young people, all operated by nonprofits. To find out about the programs and activities, parents and kids can call a youth information line staffed by young people.
The mayor also pushed for later first classes in the morning to reduce unsupervised after-school time for middle-school students. For the chronically homeless and those with no income and few work skills, a special task force in the early 1990s created 108 transitional housing units, along with various support services.
One of the major changes Police Chief Robert Olson brought to the Minneapolis Police Department was a stronger emphasis on community policing. Through the national Police Athletic League, police officers, young people and families build community ties and positive relationships around athletic and recreational activities that include football, basketball, volleyball, roller skating, and a baseball league held in partnership with the Minne-sota Twins.
Olson also instituted many of the now widely adopted law enforcement measures promoted by former New York Police Commissioner William J. Bratton, including tougher anti-gang, anti-drug measures, the application of GIS technology to support proactive policing, and seeking longer sentences for chronic offenders, in cooperation with the city attorney's office.
Using Bratton's approach, the Minneapolis police put together CODEFOR, a crime-reduction strategy, partly based on methods instituted by the New York City police in 1993. One of the major differences was community response. Despite a 40 percent increase in arrests in the first year, complaints against Minneapolis officers dropped by one third. According to Minneapolis Sgt. Robert Allen, this was not the case in New York City.
CODEFOR uses GIS technology to support four operational elements -- accurate and timely intelligence, rapid deployment of personnel and resources, effective tactics and relentless follow-up and assessment. The GIS is MapInfo Professional, a Windows-compliant desktop system used in conjunction with MapMarker Plus, for geocoding, and MapBasic, which enables developers to create a simplified graphic user interface. For the department, a big advantage is being able to access, carve out and scale data from disparate sources -- large DV2 mainframes, Oracle, Access, Paradox, Excel, etc. -- then pull