Effectiveness of compstat process

Effectiveness of compstat process



The compstat (computer statistics) process of crime reporting was started by the New York police department in 1994. It aims at reducing crime, increasing the apprehension rates for criminals by authorities and also involving the community more in security matters. Various areas and jurisdictions that have adopted the use of this procedure in crime reporting have reported significant reductions in crime. The compstat procedure has provided benefits such as increasing open communications over security matters and increasing accountability. However it has also been blamed for promoting fudge factor in crime reporting and increasing pressure on leadership to contain and control crime. Such pressures are known to contribute to unethical reporting of crime where the reported figures may not reflect the actual situation on the ground. This paper seeks to analyze the effectiveness of the compstat process in achieving its main objectives.

Summary of articles

Willis, Mastrofski & Weisburd (2007) summarizes the main principles that guide the computer statistics process. Accurate and timely intelligence principle involves the use of the collected information to identify priority areas where security resources should be directed in order to control crime. This is usually done in a timely and planned manner. Compstat also encourages the use of effective tactics where security officers are supposed to utilize diverse resources in their response to a problem. The rapid deployment principle asserts that since compstat enables police have most of the information at their disposal, they should design effective strategies in crime response thereby improving security situation. There must also be relentless follow-ups and assessment of the strategies being implemented so that their efficiency can be gauged. There must be optimal evaluation of results.

The authors demonstrate the fudge factor in preparing and reporting of most criminal statistics by the police. He claims that despite noticeable reductions in police reports in various types of crimes such as assault in New York, there is a considerable increase in the number of patients being treated for assault related ailments. There is an urgent need for independent probe into the police statistics provided in crime reports. Most police commanders have pressurized officers under their leadership to record low figures so as to avoid being seen as complacent in their work when they report the figures during the weekly compstat meetings. The authors highlight some of the ways that police use to fake crime decreases such as reporting felonies as misdemeanors, not filing reports, undervaluing property crimes, intimidating victims so that they lose the urge to report criminal acts and reporting different crimes as similar or one crime. Such unethical behaviors make the trend of crime rates appear to dwindle but in the actual sense they may be on the rise.

The authors also highlight the role of the compstat process in exploiting various levels of communication amongst high level police command, mid level police officers and the community. It enhances crime mapping by security organs and instills a higher degree of accountability on police officers in identity and response to crime. The increased levels of information sharing make security agents innovative and creative in devising security strategies that ensure they remain proactive in their work. Crime mapping through the use of compstat data is essential since it directs the police on where they should dedicate more resources in order to contain crime. It therefore implies that there must be safeguards to ensure that this data is collected in the correct manner so that it can be relevant. The authors recommend the development of crime analysis unit in police departments so that they can audit collected data. This would involve collaborating with other agencies such as hospitals and community groups so as to ensure all committed crimes are reported.

Eterno & Silverman (2010) analyze the pressures that compstat managers are exposed to in giving reports that portray a reduction in criminal index. High level managers exert immense pressure on mid level management so that they can record statistics that indicate a reduction of criminal activity. This is because various performance management policies such as promotions are conducted on the basis of indicated crime trends in one’s area of jurisdiction. High level managers are supposed to meet certain targets in crime statistics that directly imposes political and organizational pressure throughout the entire hierarchical set up in crime reporting. The authors also indicate that distortion of data is mainly done at the recording and interpretation given to different natures of crimes reported. The police manipulate the figures in order to achieve political acceptance where they are seen as performers. The authors report on various incidents where police officers have been implicated in refusing to record crimes and downgrading most of the reported criminal incidents so as to manipulate the statistics.

Comparison and analysis of the articles

The authors concur that the computer statistics program was devised as a new approach to deal with criminal activities from a management perspective. The program makes security agencies explore various innovative methodologies that lead to containment of crime within their jurisdictions. They also highlight the worrying trend where subordinate officers manipulate data so that it can conform to aspired targets. These officers are normally under pressure from the police leadership since the reported data is a key indicator of their competence and forms a basis for recognition and rewards. Despite the overall success of the compstat program, there was a serious limitation since the program never anticipated the fudge factor.

However the authors fail to highlight the immense danger that the fudge factor could lead to. Underreporting of crime means the relevant authorities lack the basis of taking requisite measures to control it. This is because most populations in cities have been on a continuous increase which obviously means that there should be more policemen available to provide security in such areas. If the available statistics have been manipulated to indicate crime reductions, the authorities may be content with the status quo and hence expose the public to more risks. This is a serious trend that must be contained.

Eterno & Silverman (2010) fail to appreciate the need for establishment of an audit agency or section that can authenticate most of the reported criminal incidents. They cite non cooperation from police officers and blackmail that would trivialize the work of such an agency since police may claim they have the sole mandate to investigate, record and compute any crime data. But the establishment of such an agency as highlighted by Willis, Mastrofski & Weisburd (2007) is essential. Such an agency should be empowered to have oversight roles in verifying whether reported crimes have been downgraded or interfered with. It would also allow punishment to police officers who engage in such acts of misconduct and unprofessionalism.

The authors have also failed to highlight the impact of unethical acts by police in interfering with data on crime. These acts such as downgrading felony to misdemeanor deny the victims their rights and compromise the criminal justice system. This is because the police are the investigative authorities who bring the evidence to court and may be under pressure not to disclose all facts and evidence in a case before a court of law. This may deny the victim the right to access full damages and in some cases may lead to acquittal of the offender since the charges brought against him have been interfered with. Such a scenario makes the victim lose his rights to access full damages and can be an intimidation to victims not to report criminal acts against them (Cordner & Scarborough, 2007).

There is agreement that if the fudge factor can be contained, the compstat technology can be optimal in enhancing efficiency and increased connectedness between the police and community. It can be effective in enhancing the evolvement of police forces from bureaucratic and centralized systems to grassroots based forces. Increased partnerships at the grassroots ensure proactive solutions to crime causation and containment which is owned by the community. The technology is also effective in ensuring various units in the police force leverage on their competencies and work in partnership in addressing crime trends. It eliminates the traditional fractured systems where different units work in competition based on the organizational culture of each. Compstat brings various teams together through amalgamation of data and strategies to contain crime.

There is also concurrence to the fact that compstat can only be effective if it can be implemented on a wide scale through adoption by various districts. This is the only strategy that can address the transitory nature of crime where offenders who know they are being monitored simply switch their criminal acts to other areas. It is therefore essential that the criminal trends in neighboring districts or areas be monitored before conclusive information on crime levels can be made (Casady, 2008).

The authors have not highlighted the need for authorities to provide adequate resources to maintain the compstat program. This technology requires massive data base back end systems that are interconnected and must remain stable and free from any intrusion.


There have been noticeable developments in police management in recent years. It is advisable that police officers should continue to utilize research in their areas so that they can devise proper management systems of their work. It is essential for review of the various problems areas of compstat so that existing loopholes can be addressed. The fudge factor should be addressed through various measures. Performance management measures for police should be less reliant on crime statistics so as to reduce the pressure the top level managers impose on their subordinates. Emphasis should be given to analysis and development of strategies to contain emerging crime patterns. The compstat technology should be enhanced due to its ability to identify and develop proper crime management strategies based on factual information. It encourages leaders to adopt proper decision making strategies such as delegation, collaboration and involvement. The adoption of management styles such as delegation creates an invigorating atmosphere where subordinates feel enthusiastic and have high morale to achieve set objectives and targets. Such participative management policies are effective in discovery of talents and ensuring continuous growth in careers.


Casady, T. (2008). Beyond arrest: Using crime analysis to prevent crime.

The Police Chief 75(9): 40-42.

Cordner, G.W., & Scarborough, K.E. (2007). Police administration. New Jersey. Lexis Nexis.

Eterno, J.A. & Silverman, E.B. (2010). The NYPD’s Compstat: compare statistics or compose statistics? International Journal of Police Science &Management 12(3): 426-449.

Willis, J.J., Mastrofski, S.D. & Weisburd, D. (2007. Making Sense of COMPSTAT: A Theory-Based Analysis of Organizational Change in Three Police Departments. Law & Society Review 41(1): 147-188.


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