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Boulder Police Using New Data System to Create Strategic Plan

The new open data portal will be accessible to the public, to increase transparency as the department continues to work towards police reform. Officials hope to develop a long-term public safety plan with the community.

(TNS) — The Boulder, Colo., Police Department has launched a new open data portal that provides more information on crime rates in the city and allows people to download a spreadsheet of the data to analyze on their own.

The department also is using data to inform its strategic and master planning processes, which are "integrated processes that ensure the department can keep moving forward with reform while working with the community to clarify a local public safety vision for the long term," City Manager Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde said.

In the City Council's study session Tuesday, Julie Wartell, an independent adviser on public safety issues relating to crime analysis, problem-solving and justice systems, shared more about four core crime science concepts and theories that have been guiding Boulder's work.

One such principle is the 80/20 rule, which argues that 80 percent of consequences stem from 20 percent of causes. In other words, crime is highly concentrated across people and places, Wartell said.

The Boulder Police Department used this idea to analyze violations in the University Hill neighborhood. Neighbors have long expressed frustration about parties and noise in the area. That was exacerbated several months ago when an estimated 500 to 800 college-age people gathered near Pennsylvania Avenue and 10th Street on March 6 in a large outdoor party that became destructive, with people flipping a car and damaging other vehicles and property.

According to data presented Tuesday, there are 1,539 rental properties in University Hill and the surrounding area. Between January 2018 and April 2021, the department received 18,415 calls for service to these properties.

It analyzed the number of calls at various types of properties, including fraternity and sorority houses, apartments and duplexes, triplexes and quadplexes.

That analysis confirms the 80/20 principle, according to Wartell. It indicates that places are not equally problematic and that when the department controls for the number of occupants, some places have larger concentrations of problems than others, Wartell noted. She argued that indicates the need for better property management at some locations.

"In my opinion, we're not going to be able to police our way out of these noise complaints and disorder complaints," Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold said. "It is just overwhelming when you look at the data — how many calls for service we have across the Hill area."

"What the data clearly demonstrates is that we have severe place management issues on the Hill and I think it's clustering around certain landlords, management teams," she added. "And I think that we really need to understand the amount of calls for service being generated from a very few places on the Hill."

If the problem cannot be solved through policing, Councilmember Mary Young asked what could be done. Education will be a big part of it, Herold said. Additionally, the city is working with the University of Colorado Boulder to pilot a program that will increase code enforcement. A stricter nuisance abatement ordinance could be a final step.

In addition to spending time on the University Hill neighborhood, Boulder Police representatives on Tuesday also touched on the rise in property crime and the bike theft problem in Boulder.

Bike theft is a concentrated problem, Wartell noted. There are 5,389 street segments in Boulder, and 84 percent have zero bike thefts.

The police department targeted its response by distributing theft prevention cards, launching an awareness campaign and conducting security assessments of Boulder bike shops. The police also encouraged people to register their bikes through Bike Index and conducted undercover operations.

Since the efforts began, there's been a 30 percent reduction, the department reports.

(c)2021 the Daily Camera (Boulder, Colo.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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