Lanier To Focus On Crime Hot Spots

Cathy L. Lanier, a 16-year veteran of the D.C. police force, is focusing on community policing, which includes responsive and polite police officers.
Cathy L. Lanier, a 16-year veteran of the D.C. police force, is focusing on community policing, which includes responsive and polite police officers. (By Susan Biddle -- The Washington Post)
By Allison Klein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 27, 2006

Cathy L. Lanier, chosen last week to lead the D.C. police force, said she plans to use "precision patrol teams" to reduce crime in certain parts of the city, focusing on the places and times when criminals are most apt to strike.

The patrols are part of a broader community policing strategy that Lanier hopes to push as head of the 3,800-member department. In an interview, she said she intends to give more authority to commanders and beat officers to customize their own crime-fighting programs.

Targeted patrols have been used by police departments for years to combat spikes in crime. D.C. police have more than a dozen hot spots that get increased attention -- although not to the degree that Lanier is proposing. She created a model in 2002 when she was commander of the 4th Police District in upper Northwest and Northeast Washington. It reduced crime there, she said, and could have an impact citywide.

The precision patrol teams focus on crime hot spots and the "hot times" in which they occur, Lanier said. In the model Lanier used, officers blanketed areas in marked police cars with flashing lights to maximize visibility. The hot spots were relatively small -- about six square blocks each. But they were accounting for large shares of robberies, burglaries, vehicle thefts and other crimes. Crime dipped within 90 days, she said.

"What will make or break this is engaging the people who have to carry it out and engaging the people who have to live with it," Lanier said.

Lanier, 39, a 16-year force veteran, was selected by Mayor-elect Adrian M. Fenty (D) to replace Charles H. Ramsey in a job that is often a lightning rod for criticism and complaints. A protege of Ramsey's, she said she plans to build on his successes in reducing crime while making the department more responsive to residents. If confirmed by the D.C. Council, Lanier would become chief in January, soon after Fenty takes office.

"With community policing, there is not one template you can implement across the city," Lanier said in the interview last week. "Every neighborhood is different."

Lanier, who was offered the position by Fenty earlier this month, said she still is crafting her plans and provided few details about how the precision patrols will work. She has not yet assembled her command team.

She said that she wants to put more officers on the streets, but not necessarily by increasing the size of the force. First she wants to explore increasing efficiency. But in any event, she said, the police must do more: be more visible on the streets, address neighborhood concerns in all parts of the city and simply be more polite to the public.

"I want us to be innovative," she said. "I want us to change the way we do this to mirror a successful business."

Lanier most recently headed the force's homeland security division, a subject in which she holds a master's degree. But she has more than a decade of experience in patrol work, including stretches as an officer in the 6th District and as a commander in the 4th District.

She said she plans to rely on district commanders and officers to develop their own plans for dealing with disparate needs. Beat officers will get more freedom to work directly with residents and solve the problems they face -- a hallmark of community policing.

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