The Durango Police Department typically has only four officers roaming the city at any given time. With such limited resources, it is crucial to deploy them to the most strategic locations.
That may be school zones in the morning, the Animas River Trail mid-afternoon and downtown bars around closing time.
But those are the obvious go-to spots for those times of the day. Police hope a closer look at crime data can reveal more insights into where patrols should be placed during certain times of the day, certain days of the week and certain months of the year.
Tessa Reinhart of the Durango Police Department spends her days poring over crime reports to best determine where problem areas are developing and how best to deploy resources.
Reinhart is no stranger to vast spreadsheets of data. She worked for four years as a records technician for DPD before being promoted in January to the department’s new crime analyst position.
“My prior experience as a records tech helps because I was entering this data all day, every day, and now I know where to look for it,” she said. “It was nice to come from within the department.”
Understanding when and where most crimes occur is the first step in proactive policing, or the practice of deterring criminal activity by showing police presence and engaging the public, Reinhart said.
Chief of Police Kamran Afzal advocated for a crime analyst position after he was hired last year. He plans to make the drilled-down data publicly available in an effort to be more transparent with the community.
“I want everyone to know where crime is in Durango,” he said. “Durango might seem like a sleepy town, but we definitely have big-city problems on the property side of things.”
Every morning, Reinhart analyzes police reports from the last 24 hours.
“I make notes and have Excel spreadsheets of what’s happening to connect the dots,” she said. “I then pass that information on to patrol officers and detectives so that they can be more efficient in their jobs.”
Analyzing police reports allows Reinhart to plot geographic hotspots for crime, as well as track which times during the day are most active for criminal behavior.
“The goal is to be more proactive rather than reactive and be more efficient as a whole,” she said.
Reinhart tracks property crimes and violent offenses, including robbery, arson, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, aggravated assault, forcible rape and murder.
Her first project was summarizing 2017’s data and creating the department’s first-ever annual report.
The report shows a dip in reported crime in Durango, including property and violent crimes, which were down about 10 percent compared with the previous year.
In 2017, there were 768 such offenses reported, compared with 852 in 2016.
Larceny-theft tops the list, outweighing all other property or violent crime reported in Durango over the last five years.
The five-year average for larceny-theft crimes is 531, far surpassing the next most prevalent crime of burglary, which has a five-year average of 63 reports.
“I have not gone into the geographical aspect yet, but I want to,” Reinhart said.
Reinhart compares data gathered each month with the same month over the last five years because focusing on only two points in time can skew perceptions by ignoring broader trends.
“For January, I compare it with the last five Januaries because you want to compare apples to apples,” she said.
Reinhart said the position is a work in progress, but the goal is to eventually produce weekly reports to pass along to officers.
“I can tell peak times of days and peak times in a week so that patrol can focus their efforts,” she said. “We don’t have that many officers on duty at a time, so making them more efficient is beneficial to everyone in the community.”