D.C. Police Use Redevelopment to Predict, and Prevent, Crime

Peter Hermann describes the police force's efforts in D.C.'s up-and-coming areas to put a stop to crime and congestion before it even occurs.
August 7, 2012, 9am PDT | Emily Williams
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The revitalization of an area or community is often seen as an effective means to reduce crime, but could this process actually draw in the very thing it is meant to discourage? D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier has begun using real estate trends to predict and prevent crime in redeveloping areas of the city, which can be vulnerable to crowding, traffic and criminal activities. Says Hermann, "Economic development data can be as important in shaping police staffing decisions as armed-robbery statistics."

Lanier has recently targeted H Street in Northeast, and Columbia Heights and the U Street corridor in Northwest, due to increases in robberies and nuisance crimes as the areas redevelop, displacing the drug-dealing and prostitution that was taking place.

Why doesn't redevelopment make policing easier? "One reason redevelopment challenges police is that it doesn't happen all at once," writes Hermann. "Along H Street NE, for instance, the bars, dance studio, restaurants and clubs are still next to boarded-up buildings."

Lanier intends to resolve these shortcomings by utilizing the data at hand to project future outcomes. "Ultimately, it's a complete shift in standards, regulations, transportation, policing and public safety. If we know where the development is, we can predict a little better and put things in place to prevent crimes from popping up in those places."

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Published on Saturday, August 4, 2012 in The Washington Post
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