FLINT (WJRT) (5/14/2019) - Police in Genesee County are using a data-driven approach across municipal boundaries to map out crime and find the people responsible for them.
Police in Genesee County are using maps like these to target specific areas where crimes are more likely to happen and work together across borders to stop it.
Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton is leading the effort to cut down on crime in all communities. He's targeting and removing what he calls the "crime drivers."
"If we can remove them, we can make the community safer," Leyton said.
To do so, he created the Crime Strategy Unit.
"We're looking in our community. We're seeing who the crime drivers are, where those individuals who are causing crime are causing other people to commit crimes and we're focused on those areas of our community," Leyton said.
Police are using data to develop maps showing crime hot spots, where they believe certain groups are committing crimes. This connects their names and faces.
"We have nearly 4,000 felony warrants a year that we actually write and that's not including the ones that we reject and that doesn't count misdemeanors," Leyton said. "We have 2,000 abuse and neglect cases. So we have to be more efficient. This is a way to be more efficient."
The information comes from the police departments.
"Police make arrests, they enter data, that data is shared across the board with all the agencies, including the prosecutor's office," Leyton said. "It's entered into one central system."
The system is a software program that he said every Genesee County law enforcement official can access.
"This is instantaneous," Leyton said. "As soon as a car is stopped, something might come up in the system and someone might say, 'Hey I've got a warrant on that guy.' Maybe there's nothing here, but I've got a warrant here. So just hold onto him, we're gonna come get him."
Mt. Morris Township Police Chief Terence Green was "amazed" that the crime drivers in his jurisdiction are committing crimes elsewhere, as well. He credits the new system for solving 95 percent of violent crimes in the township.
"Just based on that information sharing, connecting the dots, collecting evidence, taking witness statements, things of that nature," Green said. "And right now we've been successful in decreasing our violent crime rate within Mt. Morris Township."
With the knowledge of where those hot spots are, police are able to be more proactive
"If it's a party store, I have officers in undercover capacity out there conducting surveillance, you know monitoring the activity," Green said. "It might be a specific vehicle that we're looking for that's involved in all of these ... violent acts, you know."
He has noticed that when police catch a crime driver it cuts down on other offenses because some criminals are responsible for multiple offenses. Even if they aren't arrested for the most serious allegations, Green said getting them off the street breaks the cycle of violence.
As a result, Leyton's office is using the info to step up their prosecution to keep crime drivers off the street and out of the community.
"Those are the folks that we don't want to end up negotiating pleas with -- or what the public thinks of as plea bargains. Those are the individuals we want to take to trial. Those are the individuals we want to have air-tight cases against so we can take them to trial and get the conviction and the maximum penalty," Leyton said. "That's the goal of the program."
Right now, only the Flint and Mt. Morris Township police departments have the software. Leyton is making his way around their communities to let people know the impact it's making.
Leyton said the Crime Strategy Unit.costs $80,000 a year to run. He's still working on fundraising to get the software in every Genesee County police department.
EVEN MORE PROACTIVE APPROACH
But not everyone is on board. Leon El-Alamin believes there's a different way to tackle crime by stopping people from going down that path in the first place.
"The reason why you join a gang is because of a lack of love, looking for family support," he said. "That's where the community centers, that's where the mentors, that's where the good schools and things like that can fill in and be safety nets. When you take away these ... social safety nets, this is the end result. And now we're at a crisis with it."
El-Alamin said those resources were never made available to him when he was young. He spent seven years in prison for drug and gun charges before creating the MADE Institute in Flint.
His organization is a nonprofit working to rehabilitate and provide opportunities to at-risk kids and those returning from prison.
El-Alamin said police departments should be focused on community policing rather than stepping up patrols.
"Where you actually have officers from the community, who have relationships with people in the community who engage them, don't necessarily need the guns -- these assault rifles and things like that -- but have a one-one-one conversation," he said.
But El-Alamin if someone isn't reached in time they should get caught and be punished for their crimes. Then, everyone deserves and should have a second chance.
"Anyone can be rehabilitated if the proper resources and the will is there," he said.