“The benchmarks for 2009 indicate that the men and women of the Brentwood Police Department continue to provide excellent police services to the citizens of Brentwood,” police Chief Mark Evenson wrote in his department’s annual Benchmark Report. Established in 2008 as a way to track the PD’s performance to assist in strategic and operational staffing decisions, the report provides an annual snapshot of the work the department does in four areas: Response Times; Incidents of Crime and Crime Rates; Workload; and Crime Clearance Rates.
The length of time it takes for an officer to respond to a call is broken down into two categories: Priority 1 calls that involve emergencies such as immediate threat to life or a crime in progress; and Priority 2 calls, which are high priority but do not rise to the level of an emergency.
Priority 1 calls in 2009 took an average of 4:45 for a response, 14 seconds longer than in 2008. Priority 2 calls were up one second to 5:45.
“These are small increases,” Evenson told the Council last week. “I really do not believe they warrant any changes at this time.
Councilman Chris Becnel asked what sort of increase might call for changes, to which Evenson responded that it was hard to say. Nationwide, a general goal is to keep response times to Priority 1 calls under five minutes, but another increase on the next report “would set a trend to address, even if it doesn’t go over five minutes,” Evenson said.
Even with the increase, the response time is still four seconds faster than the 2005 average of 4:49. Priority 2 calls were answered 26 seconds faster in 2009 than in 2005.
Incidents of Crime and Crime Rate
Part 1 crimes include violent offenses of murder, rape, robbery, arson and assault, as well as property crimes of residential burglary, non-residential burglary, theft and auto theft. “Incidents” refers to the total number of Part 1 crimes in a given year, whereas “crime rate” refers to the number of crimes per 1,000 population.
In 2009, violent crimes were down 12 percent from 2008. A total of 445 violent crimes were committed last year, including one murder and five rapes. Property crimes dropped from 1,161 to 928, a reduction of 233 incidents (20 percent). The improvement was fueled mostly by a 23-percent drop in thefts. Overall, Part 1 crimes were down 15 percent last year.
The reduction in the number of crimes resulted in a similar reduction in crime rate. Whereas 2008 saw 31.99 Part 1 crimes per 1,000 population, in 2009 the rate was down to 26.47 per 1,000 population.
Workload consists of two categories: reactive (calls for service, accidents and response to crimes) and proactive (incidents generated by officers, such as traffic and pedestrian stops for suspicious activity, citations and arrests). The 2009 report shows a drop of 6 percent in reactive work, down to an average of 552 incidents per sworn officer (Brentwood has 62 sworn officers). On the proactive side, BPD officers averaged 139 incidents in 2009, a 30-percent drop caused mostly by the termination of a CHP grant that paid for patrols on Vasco Road. The grant money helped officers write more than 3,000 additional citations in 2008 than in 2009, when they penned just over 7,000. The pro-active workload in 2006, prior to the grant, was an average of 135 incidents per officer, an increase of 3 percent.
Crime Clearance Rates
Clearance Rates refer to the number of cases the department closes, either by arrest or by “exceptional means,” which means a perpetrator has been identified and located, but no arrest was made due to circumstances outside the department’s control, such as a suspect’s death or arrest by another agency for another crime.
The BPD in 2009 was able to clear Part 1 crimes of murder, rape, robbery and assault at a higher rate than the national average, but dropped below the nation in clearing arson, burglary and theft incidents. While pleased with his department’s performance on violent crime, Evenson told the council that the same couldn’t be said about the rate for clearing property crimes.
“Though our clearance rate for violent crime is well above the national average, our clearance rate for property crimes needs to improve,” Evenson wrote in his report. “The two areas of concern are burglary (BPD’s clearance rate in 2009 was 7 percent; the nation’s 13.2 percent) and theft (BPD’s is 15 percent, the national rate is 22.5 percent). We are in the process of developing a strategy to increase our clearance rate, especially for those two crimes.” That strategy, he told the council, would come before them in April.
After receiving the report, Councilman Erick Stonebarger said he was “ecstatic” about the report because, given the condition of the economy, he expected to see the crime situation worsening. Councilman Bob Brockman said the report’s figures are borne out in his daily experience.
“When things aren’t going well in the city, we (the council) hear about it,” he said. “I have to tell you, I don’t hear any of that from our residents.”