JENNINGS, MO. (KPLR) – St. Louis County Police say they have seen a huge drop in crime over the first eight months of 2012, and they’re attributing the success to something the city of St. Louis is just beginning to implement: hot spot policing. They credit the approach for a twelve percent slide in overall crime numbers this year.
“Any time crime is down, that’s good news,” county Chief Tim Fitch said in an interview Thursday.
And in this case the numbers clearly stand out. St. Louis County is 12.1% from January through August, 2012, compared to the same period the year before.
Property crimes led the decline, with burglaries down 26.5%, and theft down 9.7%. Robbery was also down 13.1% over the period.
Asked why he thinks it happened, Fitch didn’t point at the economy. He credited the county’s allocation of resources.
The department has switched its officers to three ten hour shifts each day. Of course, there is overlap between the shifts. Police schedule those overlaps to the times when crime is at its highest. Then they hit the problem areas.
“Hot spot policing is a big part of that,” Fitch says. “We identify our spots and then we take our personnel when we have the overlap and that’s how we flood an area and take care of a problem.”
Jennings has been the area where that hot spot policing has been most effective according to Fitch.
The north county community gave up control of its embattled police department to St. Louis County about a year and a half ago. Fitch explains how the new hot spot method has worked well in Jennings, which has seen a 15.8% drop in overall crime.
“Something like burglary, generally speaking a burglar doesn’t break into one house. They do multiple, multiple burglaries before they get caught, so if we can prevent them or catch them early, we can prevent all those downstream crimes.”
Residents in Jennings are mostly high on the new methodology. What’s most visible, they say, is the number of officers on the street. Shana Jackson says there are clearly more county officers out than when Jennings had its own department.
“They do more,” she says. “They do their job. When Jennings was here they didn’t do much.”
And they are visible.
“When the kids are getting out of school, they be posted on the corners everywhere, make sure the kids are safe and stuff…get home safely. So I feel like it’s improving,” she says.
Of course it’s not all roses. Car theft and felony assault are both up county-wide, though only slightly. And some residents in Jennings say the numbers don’t reflect what they consider to be the “tough reality” of the streets here.
Often the most talked about statistic, of course, is murder. And that number is among the most striking in St. Louis County. So far this year there have been only two. That’s compared to fourteen at the same time in 2011.