Posted by: knightbird | March 13, 2015

Another Root Cause Analysis

I attended what was billed as a mayoral forum at the University of Alaska’s Wendy Williamson Auditorium. The topic of the forum addressed the increase in violence in Anchorage. The moderator had a lot of canned questions to ask, and the audience had a chance to participate in the last 30 minutes of the forum.

I did not hear any innovative ideas, and some really dumb ones did emerge. I did ask a question about whether any of the candidates had ever heard about “Predictive Policing”—something I believe is a very Lean approach to policing. The FBI issued a law enforcement bulletin in April of 2013 describing the concept and its early success. Only one candidate’s answer expressed understanding. One candidate (who should not be running, in my opinion) said that there were privacy issues with the concept. The one decent answer said that the Anchorage Police Department was aware of the concept, but not with the specific phrase. He said that APD gathered data, but did not have the expertise to use it.

Being a knee jerk Lean Guy, I had to reduce the questions asked down to a search for the root cause of violence. Every candidate jumped to an immediate, we need more cops on the street. Not one of them said we should help cops become more efficient. No Kaizen has been conducted in Anchorage on police issues. That would be my first comment. I don’t know the facts about crime in Anchorage, or how the internal processes of policing address them. So the first goal is to understand the facts. One question asked the candidates to consider whether burglary is linked to drug use and how we address this subset of crime.

That’s a good question. Why does a burglar steal? Answer: to get money to buy drugs. Why does the burglar need the money to buy drugs? Answer: because the burglar is an addict and needs the money to buy drugs. Why does the burglar have a drug habit? Here is where the question becomes more difficult to answer. A couple of the mayoral candidates did talk about historical and intergenerational trauma, but not in any depth nor with any sense of understanding. One answer might be: the burglar is a drug addict as a result of the impact of intergenerational trauma?

If we arrive at this point in our question and answer exercise, the proposed solutions begin to change. We now begin to understand the link between burglary and drug addiction. We can capture and incarcerate the perpetrator, but the crime will only return when the perpetrator is released, unless we deal with trying to find solutions for the drug addiction (or whatever else might be the cause for the crime)

This exercise is incomplete, and a holistic solution to crime needs to follow a progression of Kaizen. We need to fix processes and reduce defects. The more time cops have to spend doing their job, and the less time wasted, the more protection we have. Lean can fix this part of policing and probably reduce the number of cops needed. Then solutions like Predictive Policing can be tried. In some places in the country, Predictive Policing has reduced a category of crime by as much as 20%. That is significant. And it can be used in any crime that has enough data points. For homicide and domestic violence, the spontaneous nature of the crime renders Predictive Policing ineffective. But I am sure a few good Kaizen and a continuous improvement mentality can help continue to reduce crime. Then we can start to work on preventing the crime.

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