KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -- The KCPD is one several departments across the country that is adopting an emerging strategy for fighting crime: policing by the numbers.
One officer is using science and data to stay a step ahead of the crooks. The idea is to predict where crime will happen and put a stop to it.
What might a restaurant have to do with robberies? What about laundromats and larceny? Bus stops and burglaries?
Those are the questions Captain Jonas Baughman tries to answer.
“We always have to be aware of new ideas,” Baughman said.
“It's not that any particular business or type of business is inherently bad,” he said. “It's ‘how does this fit into a broader picture of crime?’”
Baughman is leading a KCPD crime prevention program called Risk Terrain Modeling or “RTM.” It uses data to map locations where a crime might be likely to occur. The idea is that, by identifying risk factors, police can help prevent it.
“If we can prevent 10 crimes and make an arrest, that's better than arresting 10 bad guys,” he said.
It might be something as simple as identifying a broken streetlight or dumping ground that makes it easier to commit a crime, then contacting someone to fix it.
Bryce Bradford has been working with police to reduce crime along the Prospect corridor. Recently, his neighborhood group helped the KCPD with a preventative project near his home.
“What they're trying to do is get out in front of crime,” Bradford said. “They were able to put more manpower in one little corner and just clear it out.”
Baughman began experimenting with the program more than eight years ago through a partnership with Rutgers University. In the spring, police expanded it to several neighborhoods in KC.
“It brings objective data to the table and we can decide where we want to use as much of our resources as possible,” Baughman said.
Baughman said preliminary data shows that, at Independence and Benton, crime dropped 17 percent from last year. At 33rd and Park, it dropped 25 percent.
At 34th and Troost, police saw incidents drop around 50 percent. The problem there was a single bus stop.
“It was causing us problems with drunk and disorderly conduct, loitering,” Baughman said.
The KCPD asked the transit authority to move it, now Baughman said many of those problems have stopped.
“We can get insight from people who live and work in our challenged areas,” he said.
Each zone might have different risk factors.
“Laundromats were significant in Metro patrol but not in East and Center,” Baughman explained.
Baughman said the approach lets officers focus more on places and less on people.
“I think we'd all agree we can't arrest our way out of crime,” he said.
The KCPD is only a few months into using RTM to predict and prevent crime. Right now, their data is limited but Baughman believes it shows promise.