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News Room – Inside the Winnipeg Police Service


Winnipeg Police Analyst entering George Mason University Policing Hall of Fame

By Derek Holtom

 

A prestigious Virginia university recently recognized the exceptional work done by Winnipeg Police Service Crime Analyst Sheri Bell, highlighting her efforts to aid front-line officers in crime-reduction strategies.

Bell will be entering the George Mason University’s Evidence-Based Policing Hall of Fame at a symposium this June. She will be inducted alongside seven other recipients from around the world - including winners from the United States, Australia and England. Bell is the only recipient from Canada in this year's class.

"I was very surprised when I learned of this award," said Bell, who has been with the WPS for three years. "This is a huge honour."

George Mason University says this honour recognizes the effectiveness of evidence-based policing. Award winners are required to be a key part of documenting rigorous scientific evaluation, with a long record of incorporating and translating evidence-based practices within their agency.

And while it will be Bell travelling to Virginia to receive the honour, she notes she will be there to accept this on behalf of the entire WPS.

"What we have been able to do would not have been possible if we didn't get a buy in from everyone," she said. "This award belongs to the entire service."

Bell was nominated for this award by Dr. Laura Huey, an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Western Ontario and the Director with the Canadian Society of Evidence Based Policing. In her nomination, she writes: "Whereas hot spot policing and other initiatives folded into the SPI program are becoming more routine in the U.S., I feel that it is important to put this initiative into greater context: this is one of the first and most ambitious studies of targeted police activities in Canada and was undertaken with little academic support."

Bell said she had met Dr. Huey at some work-related conferences where they struck up a friendship. They also discussed evidence based policing, which led to her being nominated.
It was Bell's work in what is commonly referred to as SPI (Smart Policing Initiative) which put her on the radar for this honour.

"It's a fantastic proactive policing program we have developed, and by 'we' I mean people like Supt. Greg Burnett, Insp. Jamie Blunden, and all of the SPI coordinators like Jason Dyck," she said. "So there are a lot of people involved - not just me. I'm the analyst of this, but they are the leadership, and it's very much a team effort, starting with the members buying in.

The SPI initiative began in 2012 in the East District, and is now utilized city wide. Bell explains how SPI works to use statistics to help better direct resources to help prevent and reduce crime in a strategic manner.

"What we are providing the members with is information on places that are 'hot' in terms of crime, disorder and traffic incidents as well as information on persons with court ordered conditions and curfews to be checked for compliance," she added. "We ask them to do this when they are not responding to calls. So of their own initiative they'll go to these locations, do park and walks - they'll engage in all manner of high-visibility policing in the hopes it will reduce crime."
Bell then explains how they are able to measure the effectiveness of the program.

"So I look at both pre-test and post-test measures  - what was it like in the area before we went in, what happened when we went in, and what the result is over time," she said. "Was crime reduced? What was the impact?"
Going through the statistics, it's clear the SPI program is paying dividends. Statistics from a 2015 project - a small part of the SPI program in general - show exceptional results.

In terms of her background, Bell has a Masters in Medical Sociology from Dalhousie University. Her studies led her towards researching how to improve the overall health of a population. From there she was able to shift her studies into "how to we keep our citizens safe" after joining the WPS.

"It's very translatable - you go from one with illness and disease, to the other with crime and criminals," said Bell. "In my research it was always 'How can we be more proactive? How can we prevent illness and disease?'
"And now it's "How do we make the population safer?"

Bell notes the Winnipeg Police Service is routinely consulted by other police agencies on their evidence based policing initiatives. They also take part in  'conferences and webinars' to speak to a large audiences on the work they have done and the results it has delivered.

The Crime Analyst Unit is involved in many other projects, studies and strategies to aid the Winnipeg Police Service in crime-fighting techniques. The unit includes one supervisor, four analysts, and five clerks. Bell noted they are in the process training three more analysts to aid in this strategy.

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