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The following case shady is based in a fictional North American city, brit represents very real approaches used by various police agencies to tackle issues similar to those that are presented here.

Case Facts: General Background

Oil City is a sprawling North American city, with a population of nearly one million people. It is the main service town for a nearby oil and gas field, with many itinerant workers traveling between the city and the oil patch. As an energy-centric town, the local economy rides the waves of oil price fluctuations, with boom times drawing an influx of workers to the city who often spend money as quickly as they earn it. When the latest oil bubble bursts, these same workers often become stranded in the city and become dependent on local aid agencies to survive.

The population is increasingly multicultural, although the members of many immigrant groups feel increasingly isolated due to reasons of language, culture, and social status. First Nations people are drawn to the city from surrounding reserves in search of employment, but often struggle to find their place in a community that does not necessarily reflect their more traditional values. The city has brutally cold winters, and relatively short, dry summers that spawn regular tornados, making life difficult year-round for those forced to live rough.

Like most North American cities, Oil City has seen a gradual decline in its reported crime rates since peaking in the late 1970s and early 1980s. While crime has gone down across the board, the incidence of violent crime (crimes involving the use, or threatened use, of force against a person) has slowly been climbing over the past decade.

Specific Issue

In the first six months of the year the number of homicides committed in Oil City exceeded the total number of deaths for the whole previous year. At the current rate, the city is on track to more than double the previous year's rate, and may even triple it. On average, one person was murdered approximately every six days, and in one particularly bad week, three people were killed in the space of less than 72 hours. Both local and national media have picked up on the trend, with the city being dubbed the "National Murder Capital." The City Council and Police Board are both demanding action from the newly appointed Chief of Police, who has been in the job less than a month.

The specific facts available are:

• Of the 26 deaths in the first half of the year, 18 victims were homeless at the time or had been homeless within the previous three months.

• Of these 26 deaths, 22 had identified suspects, 12 of whom were homeless at the time of their alleged offending or had been homeless within the previous three months.

• Of the 26 victims and 22 identified suspects, 39 (81 percent) had consumed alcohol and/or narcotic drugs within six hours immediately before the fatal incident.

• Of the 39 victims and suspects who had consumed alcohol or narcotics within six hours of the fatal incident, 30 were impaired to a level that would have put them over the legal limit to drive.

• Seventeen deaths were the result of stab injuries caused by knives or other bladed weapons. Six deaths were the result of beatings, including those that involved the use of objects located at or near the scene. Two of the deaths were the result of gunshot wounds. In the final case the victim was deliberately run down by a vehicle.

• Each of the 30 homeless (or recently homeless) victims and suspects had been referred to or sought services from an average of 4.7 different health and social agencies in the previous six months.

• The victims of these crimes had an average of 13.2 previous convictions for petty offenses such as vagrancy, being drunk in a public place, or aggressive panhandling.

♦ The identified suspects in these crimes had an average of 9.6 previous convictions for violent offenses, and had spent an average of 3.75 years incarcerated for those offenses.

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