he Lewiston Police Department reported a dramatic 21 percent reduction in the city's crime rate for the year 2003. Without question, many factors contributed to this reduction, but police believe one new innovative approach to beat assignments, called Geo Beat Information Analysis, played a major role in this accomplishment.
The Geo Beat system starts with the department's crime analyst, who collects the specifics on reported crimes, including the locations, the frequency, the time and day, and the types of crimes. The crime analyst then compiles a database to make all of the information usable. The information in this database determines the size and location of each patrol beat, called a Geo Beat, and police assign a patrol unit to that particular zone.
This function allows for assignment of a manageable beat area for one officer as well as prompt response time for a call in that zone. A shift officer is assigned to that beat and is responsible for handling all calls for services within the beat. Time is factored into the beat size to enable the officer to become familiar with the beat and the citizens who live in the neighborhood. This familiarity gives the officer a chance to recognize any problems on the beat and enables the development of solutions.
The Geo Beat officers make themselves known to local businesses and citizens in problem areas, and they involve these persons in the problem-solving process. Lewiston officers have been trained in the enhance neighborhood policing concept as well as the community policing and problem oriented policing approaches. This training provides the officers with several methods to address a problem and resolve it. All three of these techniques are designed to involve the police department with the business owners and residents in area to resolve any problem.
The enhanced neighborhood policing concept involves more officer visibility in the beat area. Through the use of modern equipment, such as mobile data transmitters (laptops with two-way communication) in police vehicles, officers can do their reports and conduct business out on the beat instead of coming into the department's building to do the work.
The community policing concept is another method used regularly by the department. Officers have the time to become familiar with the normal trends and patterns of their Geo Beat and also know who resides in the area. The officers become known to the residents, and residents are more likely to feel comfortable speaking with and providing information to the Geo Beat officer.
The department has established substations in certain neighborhoods to allow the officers to be more approachable by the youths in the area while working on reports or other matters that simply cannot be completed from the cruiser. These substations also keep the officer in the beat area, making them closer to respond to calls for service and maintaining a presence in the area. Solutions to problems are recommended and problems identified to the officer by the neighborhood residents give them a stake in the disposition of the complaint.
Lewiston police also use the problem oriented policing approach to address long-term, ongoing, and recurring problems. Officers identify the issue or problem and then analyze the cause and origin. Next, they consider solutions and reach out to the necessary resource persons, groups, organizations, or businesses to get them involved in the solution process. Public awareness and education is often a key tool in this program. The Lewiston Police Department conducts training and information presentations in 10-15 seminars a year. These seminars are made up of both civilian and police personnel and range in topics from handling bomb threats to how to respond to criminal activity. These contacts have provided beat officers with educated persons in the community who can and have relayed criminal activity reports to the department resulting in arrests and the resolution of a problem for that beat.
The police department works with the social services agency, landlords, utility companies, schools, the public works department, the code enforcement bureau, the recreation department, and numerous citizen and business groups. Many resources are available to the officers to assist in remedying beat issues.
In addition to the Geo Beat system in the patrol division, the Lewiston Police Department maintains a criminal investigation division and assigns officers to work on several specialized state and federal task forces. Lewiston has a domestic violence coordinator, a child emergency response coordinator, a citizens police academy, a law enforcement program at the high school, Drug Awareness and Resistance Education (Dare) and Gang Resistance Education and Training (Great) programs, and a Triad program with the sheriff's department.
The Lewiston Police Department, by basing its geographic area patrol assignments on crime analysis, provides quality policing to the community.■