CRIMESTAT – Investigative Aid or Administrative Tool?

City of Winnipeg Crime Stat Map

After digesting the controversial Matrix Review report on the operational effectiveness of the WPS, Mayor Sam Katz is vocalizing concerns the Police Service is underutilizing the Cities much-heralded crimestat technology.

“I would be extremely disappointed, I have seen how that works in other cities and how beneficial it is,” said Katz.

Now I really don’t want to add to the mountain of criticism the Mayor is currently facing but I do have to ask; “What exactly have you seen?”

As a frontline Police Officer and dedicated crime fighter for over twenty-six (26) years, it’s my respectful opinion that Crimestat is much like a high-end hooker.  It might look sexy, but the truth is it’s overpriced and doesn’t really help you solve your problems.

Let me explain.

Winnipeg Free Press – District 6 Crime Unit Arrest

Between 2006-2008 I was assigned a position in the District Six Crime Office as Supervisor and Sergeant in Charge of all criminal investigations in the largest geographical district in the City of Winnipeg.

The job function of the Sergeant in charge of crime might be compared to a triage nurse in the emergency department at the Health Science Center Hospital.  To much work, not enough resources and never-ending issues as you try to “stop the bleeding.”

Every morning at 7:00 am sharp, I greeted the worker bees, settled into my chair, fired up my computer and got to work.

That work consisted of reviewing, analyzing and assigning the volumes of files forwarded from the front line troops answering the calls for service in the preceding twenty-four hours.  The files were always broad-based and included anything from robberies, home invasions, assaults to property crimes and others.

It was always busy, busy, busy.

The majority of the reports were property-related and consisted of high numbers of commercial and residential break & enters.

Day in and day out I reviewed and assigned these reports, but that’s not all.  As an experienced investigator, I analyzed every report searching for similar traits or modus operandi.  Experienced investigators know the majority of crime is committed by dedicated career criminals or “serial offenders” as they are commonly called.

Common traits can be any recurring of similar pattern like;

  • Time of day
  • Area where crime occurs
  • Point of entry
  • Methods of entry – bodily force, tools or smash and grab
  • Use of vehicle
  • Clothing – in cases of video evidence
  • Type of goods stolen – cash, electronics, jewellery et al
  • Type of damage caused

When you identify crime patterns you can initiate proactive investigations designed to apprehend the offenders.

Simply put, crimestat has little to offer an experienced high functioning crime-fighting unit.  Crimestat has always been an administrative tool and not so much a “practical” investigative aid.

During my two (2) year assignment the District Six Crime Unit we enjoyed remarkable success when it came to initiating proactive anti crime projects.  Our efforts resulted in the apprehension of  dozens of prolific serial offenders.

These offenders were often put on ice as a result of the timely analysis of real-time crime data.

Data and institutional knowledge available to crime Sergeants, investigators and patrol officers long before it’s ever entered into the Crimestat data banks.  In fact, patrol officers often briefed me regarding crimes under investigation long before their reports were submitted or data entered.

Simply put, crimestat has little to offer an experienced high functioning crime-fighting unit.  Crimestat has always been an administrative tool and not so much a “practical” investigative aid.

WPS investigators had the ability to conduct detailed crime analysis long before the crimestat software was ever purchased by the City of Winnipeg.

WPS technological advances in recent years gives criminal investigators easy access to high-powered, advanced crime analysis capabilities.  This technology is available to investigators on a 24 / 7 basis.  Try calling crimestat on a Saturday night at 4:00 am when you have four (4) break & enter suspects in your custody and you want to connect the dots to other similar crimes.

Leaving your name and number after listening to a pre-recorded message is never going to help you get the job done.

(A recent Winnipeg Sun report indicates Brian Kelcey, the Mayors advisor from 2006-2008, warned Katz the crimestat program offered little beyond a website to share crime data.  See the story for the full context of Kelcey’s concerns.) 

The true benefit of crimestat is it can be used as a tool for the Police Executive to keep informed of crime patterns so they can demand accountability down the chain of command.

Divisional Commanders can no longer plead ignorance regarding crime issues that affect their respective districts.  The glossy maps provided by crimestat are excellent visual aids that are easy to read and interpret.  The crimestat web site is very popular with members of the public who care about crime and want to be informed.

Rest assured Chief Devon Clunis is on the right track when he suggests intelligence led policing is the way to go.  I’m just not sure the City had to spend a million bucks or so on crimestat software thinking it was going to take us to the promised land.

The reality on the street is, effective crime fighting requires timely, detailed, crime analysis coupled with a dedicated proactive approach that’s “genuinely” supported by people in the chain of command.

That “genuine” support has not always been there.

The road to the promised land will always be paved by the men and women charged with doing the heavy lifting for the WPS.

Trendy software will never get us there.

I’m sorry Mr. Mayor, but you don’t have a clue what you’re talking about.


WINNIPEG SUN – Crime Stat Being Ignored, Misued – Joyanne Pursaga

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