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Chief Switches L.A.'s Crime Map System

Vowing to hold commanders accountable, Bratton discards FASTRAC and adopts analysis program he used in New York.

November 11, 2002|Andrew Blankstein and Richard Winton | Times Staff Writers

Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton said the police department's system for tracking crimes is so inadequate that he decided to scrap it before instituting a model that was key to reducing crime in New York City eight years ago.

Bratton said L.A.'s data analysis system, known by the acronym FASTRAC, is a watered-down version of the original CompStat crime mapping system he put in place as New York City's police commissioner in the 1990s.

In defending his decision, Bratton said the old system "takes up an incredible amount of time and accomplishes nothing, the best I can tell. So we are putting it on hold."

Both systems use computer mapping to identify crime hot spots and patterns. But in New York, crime data receive far more scrutiny and a greater emphasis is placed on precinct commanders' figuring out solutions and being held accountable, Bratton said.

He said the decision to pull the plug was the first key recommendation to come from his new command team, which includes Jim McDonnell, George Gascon and Sharon Papa. McDonnell will officially become Bratton's No. 2 and assistant chief Tuesday; Papa and Gascon will be promoted to deputy chiefs.

The FASTRAC program, which stands for Focus, Accountability, Strategy, Teamwork, Response and Coordination, was put in place after the 1999 Rampart scandal. But Bratton said it lacks accountability for police managers and the precision needed to put department resources where they are most needed. Because of those flaws, critics say, it differed little from the pin maps used in the days of Chief William H. Parker during the 1950s and '60s.

Bratton said the new system will provide real-time information and be a key part of his plans to put officers on the street.

LAPD officials estimate it will take two months for their software engineers to design the new system and get it running. Most, if not all, the work is being done by software experts already working for the department. Officials say that stopping FASTRAC will give those experts more time to develop the CompStat system. Bratton said that, once CompStat is running, he will oversee the meetings of division captains, where data will be analyzed. In New York, Bratton used these weekly meetings to pressure police managers to come up with crime-fighting strategies. Many of those unable to react to Bratton's system of accountability lost their commands. Bratton said he will not tolerate commanders who are not aware of the criminal activity in their patrol areas.

In Los Angeles, the system will face the added challenge of the city's vast area.

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