Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas' stressed a "proactive" approach to law enforcement at his weekly COMSTAT meeting this morningSerpas pledged to open the meetings to the public when he took office, and reinforced the importance of public meetings in a private meeting with local media on Wednesday.
COMSTAT is short for "computer statistics," an approach to law enforcement pioneered by the New York Police Department in the mid 1990s. Serpas is a proponent of focusing on statistics to tackle systemic problems. He also focused on more frequent traffic stops in Nashville, increasing the number of DUI arrests there from 3,297 in 2003 to 4,986 in 2008.
Crime statistics were projected on the wall at the Municipal Training Academy on City Park Avenue this morning as department captains briefed Serpas on juvenile operations, the success of the crime lab, sex crimes, homicides, and violent crime, before district captains took turns explaining their strategies to combat crime.
Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas (right) with Chief Of Operations Kirk Bouyelas (to his left) discuss homicide statistics with Captain Gary Gremillion (background, left) at the department's weekly COMSTAT meeting this morning...
Much of the statistical data made for grim listening: Four warrants are out for rape, citywide, said Captain Gwendolyn Norwood with the sex crimes unit. 141 warrants are out for registered sex offenders, of 616 registered sex offenders in the city. A 47-year-old male was arrested for having sex with a 16-year-old girl last week, and a baby died of natural causes.
Five people committed suicide in New Orleans over the last week, said Captain Gary Gremillion, from homicide. One man hung himself, another drank sulphuric acid used for gardening, and three men shot themselves.
Serpas pressed one district officer to be more proactive about problem solving in his district, after the officer said he had passed names of suspected gang members over to the department's intelligence division.
"I'm waiting for the bunny to jump out of the basket saying intel's arrested 10,000 badasses in the last year," said Serpas. "At some point you've got to ask yourself, what's the point of giving them the information? The point is you're giving stuff away and you don't know what you're getting for it."
Another officer said the district is very large, but Serpas interrupted him.
"Let me stop you there," he said. "I was here nine years ago and the district was about the same size. Start again. What are you doing to solve problems in the district?"
Serpas praised the captain of another district for being proactive about a copper theft problem. "That's a lot more interesting than 'we've got four burglaries'," he said.
The chief also welcomed efforts by CrimeStoppers to distribute door-hanger literature to promote its 822-1111 number.
CrimeStoppers president Darlene Cusanza told Gambit she has noticed a "very nice increase in response from the police to our tips." She credited some of the new strategies adopted by Serpas since he took over, and stressed the importance of "public confidence" in the police.
"On Sunday I got three calls from a guy in Algiers," said Serpas, referring to messages left with his office at the Police Department. "He didn't leave his name but our officers went and got a warrant and found two and a half pounds of dope in there. Those people thought they got some pretty good service from the police department."
The next COMSTAT meeting is next Friday, June 18, at 8:30 at the Municipal Training Academy at 401 City Park Avenue.