Captain Art Norton, a 16-year veteran of the local police force in the City of Fort Wayne in Indiana in the USA, had a problem.

Not only were robberies in the area on the rise, the number of unresolved cases was growing faster than the number of resolved cases.

So Captain Norton led a team of police officers and staff to analyse the situation to see if they could reduce the time it takes to dispose of a case from two months to less than one.

The team mapped the steps in the robbery case process from assigning a case, through to an arrest being made, request for warrant, or closing the case due to low likelihood of solving it.

Identifying the Problems

In analysing the data they found a number of problems including:

• lack of controls over staffing in the typing pool

• absence of backup procedures for assigning a case if the Sergeant in charge is away, and

• lack of use of guidelines for determining solvability.

Common-Sense Solutions
With the problems now so crisply formulated, Captain Norton and his team found some simple, common-sense solutions that emerged from their analyses:

• guidelines were established for minimum staffing levels in the typing pool to prevent delays in report preparation owing to staff being away

• backup responsibility was assigned among section Sergeants so cases would always be assigned within 24 hours, thereby eliminating delays in assigning cases, and

• a triaging procedure was put in place so that cases with a low probability of being solved were diverted out of mainstream case assignment, so clearing the pipeline and freeing police officers up to spend their time on cases more likely to be solved.

The Pain-Free Way to Do More With Less
The last point in particular is instructive. As consultant and writer Bill Bott points out, the more time customers spend in line, the more work clogs the pipe. And in our case here, customers includes victims of crime.

To do more with less you need to keep things moving in, through and out of the pipes quickly. To reduce costs, and do more with the same (or less) we have to reduce errors, reduce re-work, reduce the number of ‘hand-offs’ between processes, and direct what resources we have to where they have the greatest impact.

Establishing a triage procedure is one way of ‘straightening the pipes’. Increasing first-visit determination or resolution is another. Reallocating resources (especially people) between different parts of a process is yet another. Parallel processing – that is, carrying out tasks concurrently rather than one after the other – is still another means of ‘flushing out the pipes’ and enabling more customers to be serviced.

These approaches lead to powerful performance improvements. And not only that, they do so in intelligent and informed ways, in contrast to wholesale approaches to making so-called efficiency gains by hiring freezes or across-the-board budget cuts. These tactics, which are generally the first port of call for management, often serve just to clog the pipes and actually end up adding costs rather than reducing them. (Crazy!)

A Turnaround in Robbery Case Turnaround Time
What results did Captain Norton see for his efforts?

Before he undertook his project the average time to dispose of a robbery case was 58 days; after the improvement effort it was 24 days.

And while taking the cases with a low chance of being solved out of the mainstream case assignment might sound a tad harsh, victims of these types of robbery actually appreciated being told the reality of the situation up-front rather than hanging on for months as their case languished.

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If you would like your team trained in these intelligent service improvement techniques, or get an improvement project for your service underway, please phone me on 0414 383 374 or contact me by return email.

With best regards,
Michael Carman
Director I Michael Carman Consulting

References: Bill Bott, 2010 ‘The Scariest Four Words in Government’
Michael L. George, 2003 Lean Six Sigma for Service McGraw-Hill.

© Michael Carman 2013