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Crime Beware, Comstat Is Here
January 27, 2005

HARTFORD -- On paper, Police Chief Patrick J. Harnett's long-awaited reorganization of the Hartford Police Department is impressive. It deploys officers in a way that is designed to respond to crime statistics, and it holds supervisors accountable for reducing crime.

It's also predicated to some extent on the hiring of 70 additional police officers over the next year. Which is why residents ought to give this plan a year to be fully implemented. The police force also will need reasonable time to get accustomed to the new structure.

Chief Hartnett's plan, which kicks in on Feb. 6, essentially divides Hartford into four districts - two that are north of Farmington Avenue and two south of the avenue.

Each district is divided into two zones, for a total of eight zones. And each zone encompasses at least two of Hartford's 17 neighborhoods.

Now here's the interesting part: Every zone is to be headed by a police lieutenant, who will be responsible for addressing all of the crime in his or her area. The lieutenants, however, do not operate in a vacuum.

Each will command a community services officer, a narcotics unit, all of the patrol units in the zone and what is called a "conditions unit, " a special detail designed to address noticeable spikes and trends in particular types of crimes such as auto theft and burglaries.

Zone commanders will be empowered to allocate their individual resources as they see fit, so long as they can show that they have kept a lid on crime patterns as they are tracked by computer.

When properly applied, the system known as the Command Status policing method (Comstat for short) has produced astonishing results in other cities, specifically, Manchester, England and Newark, N.J.

Clearly, a lot of thoughtful preparation has gone into Hartford's version of Comstat. The system deserves a chance to prove itself.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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