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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Police Department Teams With UMSL to Fight Crime

Posted By on Wed, Dec 21, 2011 at 2:30 PM

UMSL criminology professor Richard Rosenfeld will soon become a regular presence at police headquarters. - UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI--ST. LOUIS
  • University of Missouri--St. Louis
  • UMSL criminology professor Richard Rosenfeld will soon become a regular presence at police headquarters.

Earlier today the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners voted to approve a partnership between the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, the Office of the Mayor and the University of Missouri--St. Louis. The partnership is a result of a recent report calling for the city to increase its information infrastructure as a means of fighting crime.

Beginning next month, one UMSL criminologist and one graduate student will assume new work spaces inside police headquarters, where they will use their academic backgrounds to assess new crime-reduction initiatives the police will be launching in the months ahead.

One initiative, for example, uses a systematic hot-spot approach, whereby patrol cars will travel back and forth between areas given a high-crime designation. Officers will spend no more than fifteen minutes at those high-crime sites, and no more than eight minutes away from them, at any given time, which is a method that's seen results in Sacramento, California, according to Police Chief Daniel Isom. The UMSL team will then help the department evaluate whether that practice generates good results here as well.

"UMSL gives us added experience," Isom tells Daily RFT. "We have a planning and research unit, but oftentimes we're not able to do the rigorous research that UMSL specializes in."

A second initiative that will be rolled out in the future, says Isom, will take the form of notification meetings between police and unruly groups of residents in targeted neighborhoods. Rather than arresting them all, says the chief, patrol officers will invite the trouble-makers into a meeting room for what Isom calls "a summit," during which police officers will caution the group that they're being watched closely.

The UMSL project is called the St. Louis Public Safety Partnership. In addition to increasing information capacity, it's intended to help reduce recidivism rates, rely more on academic literature, organize the inchoate trappings within the criminal justice system and communicate better with outside city agencies. The mission of the project is based on the many recommendations written in a 60-page report by specialists at IBM back in June. Earlier in the year, St. Louis was one of 100 international cities to win a "IBM Smarter City Challenge Grant," which resulted in a three-week visit by IBM evaluators dead-set on finding holes in the city's police department and developing ways to plug them.

As of now, the UMSL partnership is not costing the city any money, though that could change down the road.

During this morning's meeting, Mayor Slay praised the initiative and re-emphasized that the police department was the No. 1 budgetary priority for the city -- about $250 million a year goes to public safety, he said, suggesting that the heavy financing helped the city reduce crime by 40 percent over the last five years.

"That's a significant drop, but we can do better," said the mayor.

UMSL, which has one of the top five criminology departments in the country, has worked before with the St. Louis police department, consulting with them about officer-involved shootings and racial profiling.

Also on hand during this morning's meeting were UMSL Chancellor Thomas George and Professor Richard Rosenfeld. During his remarks, Rosenfeld turned to Isom and, noting that the chief was an UMSL alumnus, told the audience: "He's Dr. Isom to us."

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