Policing in Massachusetts needs a new map. It should be an overlay of the problem and crime networks as they actually operate in the streets and homes that people inhabit.
Let’s start with the conversations that chiefs and senior leaders have with their counterparts in other police departments. In addition to the traditional county, regional and statewide associations, let’s think about periodic get-togethers among departments who share concrete interests. Such networking would not be solely the job of the chief, as is the case with the traditional arrangements. Let’s get the next generation of leaders into the networking game.
Here is the rationale.
Most of our cities and and towns have evolved as disparate communities gathered under one flag. Effective policing demands a tailored prevention, intervention and enforcement strategy for each. So why not talk across the lines on the map with people who think about the same problems and questions you think about. For example, District E-13 in Boston (Jamaica Plain) might find it has much more in common with Lawrence as an urban Dominican community than with its adjacent district in Area E, E-5, suburb-like West Roxbury. We all know Lawrence is a Dominican city. Indeed, Lawrence has the second highest percentage in the US of people born in the Dominican Republic. Also among the top 100 such cities in the country are Salem, Haverhill and Lynn.
Brookline is No. 11 on the most affluent communities in the Commonwealth but also shares crime terrains with several Boston neighborhoods. The town, that actually was part of Boston in the beginning, shares a long eastern political boundary with Boston that extends from Brighton and Allston neighborhoods down to Mission Hill, Pondside Jamaica Plain and West Roxbury.
Here are some off-the-top-of-my-head ideas for such networks. Any police leader interested in pursuing this would get access to easily retrieved demographic and crime data to fine-tune these and add others.
Summer Crime Communities
This might be the “Honky Tonk Network.” Such a network might bring together senior people to share knowledge about problems and solutions that are driven by huge increases in the summer populations and by drug transportation and trafficking, drug use and other crimes.
This grouping might include Salisbury MA, Seabrook, NH, parts of Wareham, Quincy, Gloucester, Hull, Lynn, Barnstable, and etc.
Shared Immigrant Groups communities
This might be the Gateway network. As you know, predators within immigrant communities tend to victimize “their own” within networks whose borders are defined by ethnicity, not state charters.
We might have a Route 24 network of departments who serve large Cape Verdean populations. Other ethnic population networks one could consider are those that serve people who are:
Others have noticed before me that this might be the W Network, with Weston, Wayland, Wellesley and Winchester in the top 10. Customer service and property crime are huge demands on their resources. How might they share knowledge to continue to improve?
Dozens of departments devote a significant share of resources to policing around campuses. What are we learning about how to maintain order and how to keep everyone and his/her property safe? What might Salem and Worcester learn from Amherst, who learned it from Medford and Bridgewater who picked it up from Peter Carnes at Stonehill?
In doing work with BC and BU I was struck by how much opportunity exists for campus departments to come together to share expertise on training and strategy. For example, if the Boston Fab Five — Harvard-MIT-BU-BC-NU — got together in a strategic way they could improve quality of service at almost zero financial cost.
Shared Crime communities
This might be made up of communities that share crime terrains. One might organize this in a number of ways. Some communities share terrain in the form of fencing patterns, in which thieves steal in one community and fence in another. Others share “hunting grounds” that cross boundaries. We already do good work in this area. Detectives are in regular communication across city/town lines. The unrealized opportunity is for strategy. This a very rich area for improvement and presents a huge opportunity for senior leaders to devise strategy for prevention and intervention. Every city and town shares crime terrains with others.
Major Ethnic and Holiday Crowds communities
Many communities host major events in the warm weather months. Sometimes they are ethnic celebrations, like those celebrating Portuguese, Puerto Rican, West Indian, Irish, Italian or other heritage or they are holiday events such as Salem’s massive Halloween extravaganza. There have to be broad strategic lessons to be shared.
For example, along I-91 in the Connecticut Valley one such network would include New Haven, Hartford, Springfield, Holyoke and Northampton for starters. The Rte. 24 and other ethnic networks also have gang components.
So you see what I’m getting at. Not a stunning innovation but food for thought no less.