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Baltimore's latest crime strategy is not a new idea

Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison talks about putting in systems of accountabliities to prevent future Gun Trace Task Force problem officers.

Now more than ever is the time for the administration to be truthful with the people (“Baltimore Police deployed to 120 most violent 'micro-zones' three times per patrol shift, under new strategy,” June 24). In reference to Sgt. Mike Mancuso’s statement about the Baltimore Police Department’s new patrol deployment, it does seem that this “new” strategy has been tried in the past, and it has. It has been a practice among law enforcement agencies for quite some time to attempt to project or forecast where crime is likely to occur. Before the computer was introduced to speed up and improve that process, it was done manually.

Basically, it deals with the likelihood of something occurring again in a given area and at a given time. The calculations are made using a historical database, much is as used by the Farmer’s Almanac in making its predictions as to weather, planting times, etc. The process can be, and usually is, refined to the point of dealing with specific violations, such as homicides, burglaries, etc. Various programs can be made to deal with temporal concerns, geographic concerns, crime-specific concerns, even down to the perpetrator (this is where police get into trouble for “profiling").

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All of these programs emanate from the accumulation, and scientific study of historic statistical data. The introduction of the computer certainly sped up the process, but cannot be described as “new” technology.

So, there is still literally nothing new under the sun here; it has a been done. What is particularly troubling is the fact that there are so many of these special zones, which indicates a heightened degree of crime in the city. Students of police command 101 all can speak of “omnipresence,” what it means, what is the effect of its being used and what resources are necessary to make it effective. Omnipresence is a tool of law enforcement that is designed to create the impression that the police are everywhere, all of the time. Of course, that is not realistic, but creative deployment of personnel can create the illusion that there are far more police on the street than actually are. That is partially what these concentrated enforcement zones are designed to do. In an agency that is running critical shortages of manpower, it is almost impossible to create that illusion.

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Early in the article, it is mentioned that, “district commanders will have the ability to request moving the zones, which will be considered by command.” Each of Baltimore’s patrol districts are larger than many, many, police agencies throughout the country. Each of those districts is like a police department of its own. District commanders have, or should have, access to historical computer data for their particular commands. Those commanders are front line and if they are competent in those positions they should be the best judge as to the deployment of their personnel under this plan or any other plan.

Why should that district commander have to request permission from command to make changes to his or her deployment? Given the necessary data, coupled with close observations from the point of occurrence, that district commander, once again, if competent, should be allowed to react to the local situation without permission from “above.” Of course, if given that latitude, and they should have it, those commanders should be held accountable for the results of their actions.

Robert Di Stefano, Abingdon

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