With crime rates no longer on a steady decline in Los Angeles, a conference room on the 10th floor of the Police Administration Building has been assigned new duty - as the Chief's Situation Room.
The transformation began barely a week ago, with electronic displays and deployment charts going up inside, so that Chief Charlie Beck can step across the hallway from his office and get an immediate realtime picture of incidents and resources.
"Sometimes the chief has to step forward and take direct control of the department, and this is one of those times," said Chief Beck.
Getting briefed on crime overnight is now the first thing Beck does when he arrives at headquarters, he said. Meeting there with his assistant chiefs, he is now making decisions on resource re-allocation on a daily basis.
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Crime rates had been falling consistently for more than a decade, a trend that continued into the first two months of last year, but then turned upward.
A four-day period earlier this month, from the Feb. 7 through Feb. 10, proved a turning point when 15 shootings occurred over a swath of the city that extended from Boyle Heights to the southside. The department called a tactical alert the morning of the 10th, and Beck called for the situation room to be set up.
"First thing I do when I check in every morning is go there and be briefed on crime overnight," Beck told members of the police commission Tuesday morning during their regular weekly meeting. It was the first time the department had disclosed the existence of the new briefing room.
It is still a work in progress. Three flat screen video displays are mounted atop filing cabinets with screws and fender washers. A work station has yet to be installed for the data analyst to be assigned here. But already it affords the chief rapid access to a detailed picture of policing in the
city simultaneously on macro and micro levels.
"In a room like this, he can see the entire department," said Sgt. Barry Montgomery.
A week ago, Beck ordered additional motor officers and platoons of elite Metropolitan Division officers to deploy to the areas where shootings had occurred. Preventing retaliatory gang shootings was the priority. As it was, this past weekend there was a shooting attack on a bus rider,
and another fatal shooting in Mar Vista, but the number of shootings overall was lower.
"We were able to squeeze it down in South Bureau, we had a little uptick in Central Bureau," Beck said. "So, you know, this is the push and pull of not having enough resources all the time."
Beck cautioned that a week is far too short an interval to verify trends. But he remains committed to data-based policing, and believes the CompStat tool has played an important role in the long-term reduction of the city's crime rate.
For the forseeable future, Beck and his assistant chiefs plan to make frequent use of the situation room.
Said Sgt. Montgomery: "When you have people who make decisions in the same room, things
happen fast, and that's what we're trying to do--quckly--get the crime rate
heading back down."