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Back to Archives | Back to January 2005 Contents 

Innovations in Policing : New Focus in Aurora: Crime, Quality of Life, and Traffic

By Ricky G. Bennett, Chief of Police, and Kenneth M. Murphy, Investigative Division Chief, Aurora Police Department, Aurora, Colorado











n 1998, members of the Aurora Police Department began developing a strategic plan for the department's future. The strategic planning committee was tasked with developing a plan to increase the department's effectiveness and efficiency and improve the quality of customer service. The committee addressed many important aspects of agency operations, including future technology acquisition, employee career development, and the physical decentralization of departmental resources to better serve the community. The committee emphasized providing a more efficient and effective delivery of police services through an enhanced problem-solving approach. This required a change in the physical structure of departmental resources, developing a new philosophy, and implementing a new approach to address community concerns with an emphasis on customer service through problem solving.

The new approach was to concentrate efforts on three main police mission areas that negatively affect the neighborhoods and businesses of Aurora: crime, quality of life, and traffic, or CQT. Under the new philosophy, the traditional pillars of law enforcement-random patrol, fast response, and turning all cases over to the detectives for follow-up-are replaced with teamwork, problem solving, and accountability.

In January 2002 the Aurora Police Department embarked upon the new CQT philosophy to provide better customer service to the community as a result of its strategic plan.

Crime: CQT includes providing timely information to residents in areas where trends or crime patterns are identified. For example, due to an increase in residential construction site burglaries, the police district created a coalition of construction companies to focus on crime prevention. Police officers met with leaders from the Metro Denver Homebuilders Association and the Association of General Contractors to design plans and tactics to prevent, deter, and apprehend construction site burglars. The coalition discovered a flaw in the auditing system used by the construction companies that made it impossible to track stolen items. Suggestions were made to eliminate victimization to include tracking deliveries as well as keeping a log of serial numbers of appliances delivered to the new construction sites.

Quality of Life: The department is committed to improving the quality of life for the residents of Aurora. Perceptions of quality of life are often directly related to crime and the residents' perception or fear of crime in an area or neighborhood. There are several actions taken to improve the quality of life. For example, Aurora has the Block-by-Block program, which requires police area representative (PAR) officers to walk their entire beat block-by-block with a city code enforcement officer. The goal is to identify problems or potential problems, such as abandoned vehicles on streets, inadequate lighting, malfunctioning traffic controls, and code violations, and solve them.

The Homeless Project identified significant problems with homeless persons living under roadway bridges. These living conditions cause a number of health and environmental hazards including large amounts of refuse, discarded hypodermic needles, and open fires, as well as crimes committed against other homeless people. The project coordinates officials from different city departments and state agencies, along with hundreds of volunteers, to clean up these areas and relocate the homeless to shelters.

The department established an electronic communications tree to include neighborhood watch coordinators, motel watch coordinators, and other business owners to provide direct contact with individual PAR officers. Each month, residents and business owners receive neighborhood watch crime statistics, safety tips, and information about crime trends and patterns.

Traffic: Traffic issues remain a significant concern to both the police department and the citizens of Aurora. A goal of the department is to reduce the number of motor vehicle crashes resulting in serious injury or death. A traffic officer has been assigned to review all crash reports (citywide) to identify not only the top vehicle crash locations but also to determine causation and recommend either environmental changes or enforcement actions. Weekly bulletins are published about traffic complaints from citizens, government officials, and others, providing the district officers with timely information to respond to the complaints. The tactical crime analysts in each district produce monthly maps for their districts displaying the top 25 accident locations.

Mobile variable message signboard trailers are used to reduce speeding and traffic crashes. The trailers are rotated among strategic locations known for speeding or crashes. Humorous traffic enforcement messages are displayed on the board to remind motorists to drive safely and within posted speed limits. The project has become popular with citizens and the department has received significant amount of positive media coverage from television and radio stations. The project appears to be exceptionally effective at reducing speeding and collisions.

Also, a traffic enforcement vehicle is designated for use as an interdiction vehicle with a mannequin placed inside. This vehicle is strategically placed in high-volume infraction areas as a deterrent.

Decentralization to Deliver CQT
In January 2002 the Aurora Police Department began its district operations to reach the community and delivery quality service. The department currently has three districts, the most recent opening in January 2004. Departmental resources were physically moved and rearranged to accommodate the new philosophy. Each district has all the necessary personnel to provide invaluable customer service for those problems that are negatively affecting the community. Patrol officers, police area representatives, direct action response teams, traffic officers, persons and property detectives, and a tactical crime analyst are now housed together and share the same geographic responsibility to assist the citizens in their respective districts and to provide quality police service and resolve problems.

This decentralization of resources increases individual ownership and responsibility and raises accountability in each of the officers. They share the burden of responsibility and have to work as a team to be successful in dealing with community concerns. Due to the allocation of personnel, the same officers will always be handling geographically based problems, regardless of their assignment; it is now a district responsibility.

In addition, a new approach called "sectoring" was started and geographically based sectors were created. Each sector has a lieutenant assigned as the commander. The sector commander has the ownership, personal responsibility, and resources to identify problems and effectively resolve them. But, overall, the district captains are ultimately accountable for the resolution of any problems in their district by working closely with their lieutenants, officers, and residents.

Monthly CQT Meetings: A key component to measure and monitor the success of decentralization and the positive impacts in the community is the implementation of a monthly crime, quality of life, and traffic meeting, now commonly known as CQT.

Each month, the district and bureau commanders are required to attend, participate, and formally present relevant information in a CQT meeting. Commanders are obligated to provide verbal and documented support for respective assignments. The purpose of the CQT meeting is to provide a formal setting for each respective commander to discuss community-policing and problem-solving efforts under their command in front of their peers, the division chiefs, and the chief of police. The meeting serves as a conduit to increase the flow of communication between and among executive staff and commanders of operational units and to be informed about crime concerns and problem-solving efforts leading to success.

The commanders are encouraged to use their staff to help prepare and present the information using electronic format and documented material. The district captains rely heavily upon their assigned tactical crime analyst for statistical information to proactively assist in the problem-solving process. The crime analysts also present information at CQT.

All commanders are held personally accountable for their subordinates' efforts. The CQT meeting ensures that the commanders remain knowledgeable about the problems in their respective assignments and burdens them with the responsibility to resolve those problems. It is a learning environment for everyone in attendance and a collaborative sharing of information to explore ideas and discuss effective problem-solving approaches. Everyone is informed about crime concerns negatively impacting the community and learn about problem solving efforts leading to successes. Individual members and units are recognized and rewarded for their outstanding work. In some cases, police department employees are formally awarded with recognition letters, chief unit citation awards, and other departmental recognition for information provided at CQT.

The CQT communications between and among the districts, the units, and the assignments has greatly improved. Commanders have active involvement in and direction over issues under their control. Teamwork and geographical-based problem solving is being inculcated into the organization. Officers are talking to each other in briefings, i offices, and in hallways. They discuss mutual problems in the district and work together as a team to resolve problems. Detectives are responding to calls to assist patrol and provide their expertise at crime scenes. CQT emphasizes decision-making at the lowest level and increases ownership, responsibility, and accountability for all members. ■


For more information, write to Ken Murphy in the Investigative Division, Aurora Police Department, 15001 East Alameda Parkway, Aurora, CO 80012; send an e-mail message to him at (kmurphy@auroragov.org); or call him at 303-739-6018.   

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From The Police Chief, vol. 72, no. 1, January 2005. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.








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