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Originally published Friday, July 13, 2012 at 4:29 PM

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Seattle Police Department's 'directed patrols' a good move

Seattle Police Department's increased emphasis on facetime and patrols in crime "hot spots" is a welcome approach.

Seattle Times Editorial

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What a joke. This isn't "new" policing. I walked a footbeat for 16 yrs in... MORE
In the rubric of criminal laws and prosecution, illegal possession of guns, often... MORE
One of the great mistakes of post-WW II policing has been to move the urban cop from th... MORE

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THE Seattle Police Department's move to identify crime "hot spots" and have officers patrol those places on foot is a smart use of both data and personnel.

For the past three weeks, the SPD has been using the "directed patrols" to increase their presence in areas identified by analyzing crime data as places where a high percentage of Seattle crime occurs.

Police officers are expected to get out of their patrol cars in these areas, talk with residents and business owners and increase their visibility in general. This should build up trust in the police and result in reduced crime.

"Getting out of the patrol car is a cultural change for us," Capt. Jim Dermody, the West Precinct commander, told reporters on Tuesday. While patrol cars can whiz police to where they are needed, they also can make officers faceless and separate from the areas they patrol. This cultural change means more interaction between officers and citizens — which is how it should be.

There is evidence this approach is already having a positive effect. In the first week of the patrols, the number of 911 calls from the four "hot spots" in the West Precinct — which includes downtown — dropped 60 percent during the 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. shift, traditionally when the most calls come in.

A drop in crime is a welcome outcome for both city residents and summer visitors. A Police Department plan to continue the patrols after summer ends is the right call.

This summer started with several murders, and this page called for a police approach that would focus on certain crimes, such as drug trafficking and prostitution, often associated with gang members and often taking place over and over in the same parks, downtown blocks or other areas of the city.

While it would be wishful thinking to pretend that these "hot spot" patrols can stop all shootings in Seattle, they are a move in the right direction in making this a safer city.

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