Efficient way to fight crime: Just go where the crashes are

CLARK COUNTY, Wash. - Police officers and sheriff's deputies are always looking for new ways to fight crime, and the Clark County Sheriff's Office has come across some interesting new data that helps it do just that.

The method deals with statistics every law enforcement agency keeps on two issues: Where and how often property crimes, like burglary, occur, and also the same information for car accidents.

They're normally examined separately, but then Clark County Sheriff's analyst Brian Salsig crunched the numbers together.

Salsig - a facts and figures guy - is a math-oriented crime fighter. So when he recently learned about new research connecting car crashes and property crime, he hurried to crunch the numbers.

"I immediately came back to the office and pulled up the graphs and overlaid them, and what do you know, they're absolutely right," he says. "Where we're having our property crime issue is where we're having our traffic accident issue."

Analysts took a map of unincorporated areas of Clark County that showed traffic collision hot spots and compared it to a map of the exact same area that showed property crime hotspots. When they combined the two together, they noticed obvious overlaps and one hotspot stood out: The Interstate 5, Highway 99 corridor.

Deputies plan to use the information to step up their presence in that area. It's an easy and effective way, they say, to discourage criminals.

"I wish we would have made this correlation years ago," Salsig says. "What's the most efficient way to patrol? Well, obviously, we want to reduce the number of collisions - that's going to make this world a safer place and, if at the same time we reduce the number of burglaries - Holy cow! That makes life really good, right?"

The big question remains as to why this connection exists. There's no solid answer, but one theory is that criminals tend to have a risky lifestyle and that carries over into their driving habits.

Of course, not everyone in a crash is a criminal so the connection may need to be examined a bit more.