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With SPD pushing SeaStat data-driven policing, here’s a look at Capitol Hill 2014 crime trends

It's no SeaStat. But CHS has pulled together this look at  Capitol Hill crime trends

It’s no SeaStat. But CHS has pulled together this look at Capitol Hill crime trends — yup, there’s an uptick. More charts and tables, below (Source: SPD dispatch data)

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 11.59.06 AMFriday, SPD brass will be back on Capitol Hill along with East Precinct commander Capt. Pierre Davis to update the Pike/Pine business community about the status of increased patrols in the area following a late-summer surge in street crime. The noon meeting follows weeks of “emphasis patrols” including deployment of gang units in Pike/Pine. It also caps a week of Seattle Police status updates as Chief Kathleen O’Toole — or Kathy as Mayor Ed Murray called her in a recent press conference — rolled out reports on her first quarter in command of the force and updated City Hall about her department’s new statistical approach to policing.

Monday in front of the Seattle City Council, O’Toole credited SeaStat, a newly purchased system used to map crimes and deploy officers, with putting the kibosh on what the chief said is a rising wave of crime in her new city. But she said community feedback is also driving the department’s decisions.

“We have to respond to community feedback,” she said.

“Although we’ve implemented the SeaStat system that does compile data, we’re also supplementing that with the info we get from the community.”

While we wait for SPD to update its official tallies for the first three quarters of East Precinct crime data, CHS has pulled from a dataset based on all reported incidents to compare crime around Capitol Hill through the first three quarters of 2014 vs. the same period in 2013. The good news: The overall total of reported incidents is almost exactly the same. The bad news: Things haven’t improved after 2013’s crime-y gains. Here are the totals for all East Precinct beats covering Capitol Hill.

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 12.00.25 PM

More bad news: Looking at specific areas of the Hill reveals the ugly “hotspots,” according to the dispatch data. The biggest, ugliest jump is in reported pickpocket and robbery incidents below Broadway in the E2 beat. While the SPD emphasis patrols have focused on E1 and Pike/Pine where the numbers have remained high, compared to 2013, the E2 jump stands out. You’ll also notice an uptick in assault incidents being reported across the whole of the Hill’s beats:Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 11.58.50 AM

Good news? Burglaries — especially those involving secure parking areas — are down and Hilltop (C2) experienced a let-up in reported robberies. Also, as seen at the top of the post, September’s totals across the Hill were relatively calm — down 12% year over year thanks to ten fewer reported burglaries and seven fewer threats, if you’re scoring at home. SPD also believes it may have tied more than a dozen robberies this summer to a group of teens arrested in Los Angeles in a vehicle carjacked from Capitol Hill.

SPD also this week released a report on hate crimes in the city. CHS reported on the details of the update here.

Meanwhile, CHS sat in on the most recent SeaStat meeting. In a conference room filled with SPD’s commanding officers and representatives, dashboards and slides showing citywide crime data as well as “hot spots” revealed problem locations and the stomping grounds of “repeat offenders.”

While not yet real time, the SeaStat process is hoped to create a more systematic, timely approach to identifying policing problems. In the most recent session, a surge in auto thefts in the city over the previous two weeks was identified as the group reviewed “operational” crime statistics.

SPD sees the Capitol Hill crime spike as the first big test for SeaStat:

The Department is using the crime data as part of a new program it’s launched, called SeaStat, that’s aimed at quickly addressing crime hotspots based on analysis of crime data and community reports of incidents. A recent spike in crime in the Capitol Hill area put the program to its first test. SPD has boosted patrols there and is closely monitoring the area to see if crime is reduced.

“We’re in the crime fighting business,” said SPD’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) Mike Wagers. “We’ve identified the trends and are working hard with our many partners to reverse them.”

SPD says variations of SeaStat are used by police departments including New York and Los Angeles. Other areas commonly refer to the process as Compstat, short for computer statistics, according to SPD. SeaStat meetings are held every two weeks “to discuss the latest numbers and come up with strategies to reduce crime.” In addition to 50 more officers, the mayor’s 2015 budget proposal includes money to further build-up the department’s policing systems.

The information technology team working on SeaStat also fields requests from precinct captains. True to form, at the most recent meeting, it was announced the team is looking for ways to automate the request process as the current piecemeal approach is swamped down by too many questions.

Part of the regular SeaStat session is also a review of a “shots fired” map that shows a visualization of firearm activity in the city.

But for all the maps and datasets, the SeaStat process still leans heavily on reports from the street. Capt. Davis briefed the group about his precinct’s “Capitol Hill robbery emphasis” work. “We’re getting up close and personal and it’s throwing then off kilter,” Davis said of the groups reported to be hanging out in the neighborhood looking for targets. Davis said the emphasis effort has “slowed” after a series of arrests. Some of the SPD officials at the meeting also said they believed that media attention on the situation around Capitol Hill was drawing focus off of the progress the department believes it is making in South Seattle.

The Pike/Pine emphasis follow-up community meeting is October 10th at noon at the East Precinct’s 12th/Pine headquarters.

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6 years ago

Compstat-like systems can indeed be useful, providing a way to focus limited police resources towards areas where they’ll be most effective, but they’re only as good as the data that goes into them (crimes have to be recorded in the first place and characterized correctly, which requires citizens to file reports with the police and the police to not “juke” the data). They certainly can turn up trends or patterns that aren’t immediately obvious.

But one pattern that is obvious is the spike in crimes around Pike-Pine / Cal Anderson / the Pike&Broadway Shell station that happens every summer, and then abates as the days grow short and people flee indoors. I certainly hope O’Toole isn’t going to just take credit for the fall in crime that happens as regularly and predictably as the fall of leaves and claim “Mission Accomplished” without also planning for the uptick that is going to happen again next summer. Because it’s going to happen, and they need to get increased foot and bike patrols back out before people are getting mugged, not after their crime stats tell them the spike has already happened (again).

6 years ago
Reply to  Joe

Those are all good points, but one thing the police could do more of is enforce the city code. Public spaces should be regulated for the reasonable enjoyment of all, and we have laws intended to support this that are going unenforced. The blame for this doesn’t rest entirely on the SPD, as the city attorney’s office has done a good job of discouraging them.

6 years ago
Reply to  tc

Both make excellent points. I don’t think O’tool will talk credit IF numbers are down at pine/pike – and right now they are not dropping. What is concerning is the time of day the assaults are happening, sometimes early evening or middle of the afternoon. And the magnitude, at least two assaults I read about involved the victim being beaten by 7 to 10 men and women before being mugged. The blatancy of crimes too, even drugs while sitting at a table in Bell Street surprised me. But then I realized they do it because they can, they don’t even look for police anymore.


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