BALTIMORE – At a meeting of the Maryland Transit Administration Police not long ago, a map of the Baltimore region projected onto a screen showed Light Rail, Metro and bus lines dotted with tiny aerosol cans, bags of money and other symbols representing crimes.
MTA officers stood at the front of the room, presenting the most important trends, and describing to their supervisors their plan to target criminals in each location.
The map is a key tool in CompStat, short for computer comparison statistics, a system used by MTA police to detect patterns in crime to help them more efficiently deploy officers and make arrests.
“It’s policing smarter,” said MTA Police Lieutenant Colonel John E. Gavrilis. “Before CompStat, we were just all over the place. It has helped to reduce crime to create a safer environment for transit riders and the community.”
CompStat uses 17 different types of crime symbols – the aerosol cans for cases of vandalism such as graffiti, the bags of money for cases of larceny – and highlights crime “hot spots” with a yellow circle.
More than 60 crimes were shown on the MTA’s map at a recent meeting.
“CompStat allows us to focus on the most important areas,” Gavrilis said. “It has raised our level of intelligence.”
CompStat mapping was first used by MTA Police to target Light Rail crime, which has been reduced by 60 percent since the system was implemented in July 2004.
Now, the program is used to target crime in other areas of the transit system, and it has helped lower overall crime by 22 percent, Gavrilis said.
CompStat was first used by the New York City Police Department in the 1990s, and it came to Maryland in 1997 when it was adopted by Baltimore City Police.
Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley liked the results of the program with crime, so in 2000, he created his own version called CitiStat, which has become his signature management initiative.
By requiring members of city agencies to attend bimonthly meetings with the mayor and members of his staff, CitiStat reviews every aspect of government, from trash collection to employee’s use of overtime, and helps keep city agencies accountable.
CitiStat has been credited with improving the responsiveness of Baltimore government and saving the city millions of dollars over the past five years.
Besides CitiStat in Baltimore, CompStat technology has spread to other areas of the country including Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New Orleans and Indianapolis.
Gavrilis worked with CompStat in New York, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. before he came to help implement the system for MTA Police more than a year ago.
“It has helped to improve nuisance type crimes, such as loitering and public drunkenness, which are the type of crimes that really affect people who are waiting to take public transportation,” he said. “We’ve also reduced the number of assaults and robberies on trains.”
Accountability is the key to CompStat’s success, its supporters say.
MTA Police Captain David J. Marzola, said using CompStat has made him more aware of crime and has changed the way officers view the job.
“It allows me to review crime on a daily and weekly basis instead of letting things slide,” he said. “Before, we were ‘report writers.’ Now, we’re being held accountable and our officers are following up on crime and seeing things through to the end.”
CompStat has helped triple the number of arrests made on warrants because officers are more efficiently tracking down repeated offenders, he said.
The system has also helped police identify the need for a crackdown on crimes such as fare evading. Fare inspectors were hired at transit locations because of the high levels of fare evaders discovered through CompStat, he said.
Crime data for the program is entered daily into a computer database, which is then processed by the federal government as part of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, a program that coordinates drug control efforts among local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.
Each week, MTA officers receive crime maps for the current week and crime projection maps, which help officers know where to focus their attention for the next four weeks.
“What’s important to us is trends,” Gavrilis said. “We target whatever affects the quality of life in our facilities and in the community.”
Officers at the meeting each week describe the crimes that correlate with each symbol on the map and the tactics they are using to combat them.
“This raises the bar for our officers,” Gavrilis said. “It raises the level of accountability.” -30-10/11/05