U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Compstat in Practice: An In-Depth Analysis of Three Cities

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2004
99 pages
This federally supported study provides an in-depth assessment of how Compstat (a new crime control program, combining all the major prescriptions with the latest geographic information systems technology) worked in three individual police departments in Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New Jersey.
Compstat has been hailed as a way to make profound transformations in the way that police departments operate. Many consider New York City’s pioneering Compstat program to have introduced a revolution in American policing. This research at three sites that followed in New York’s footsteps suggest that what has taken place thus far is not a transformation so much as a graft of some elements of progressive management onto fundamentally unaltered organizational structures. The police departments observed struggled with the mandate to create a more nimble organization that could move resources about strategically. Even though Compstat markedly energized middle managers to do something about crime, the pattern that evolved mimicked the reactive forms of policing about which advocates of strategic problem solving have complained. Also, Compstat failed to alter the low tolerance for risk that pervades the culture of police agencies and leads to parochial decisionmaking. Even though these sites have transplanted some new ways of doing business, they have done so without making much change to some very fundamental structures of police organizations. However, on a positive note for Compstat, the police have taken a lead role among justice agencies in embracing and using social science to decide what problems need solving and how to do it. At the turn of the 21st century, a new engine in police crime-control progressivism arose. Compstat combines all of the major prescriptions offered by contemporary organizational development experts with the latest geographic information systems technology. It reengineers police management and uses sophisticated computer maps and crime statistics to facilitate timely and targeted responses to crime problems. Tables, appendix and references

Date Published: January 1, 2004