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Local Briefs 

Back to the future

SPOKANE -- City police are creating a specialized auto theft unit to tackle Spokane's spike in the number of stolen vehicles. Authorities will also assign the city's 57 detectives to specialized units for sexual assault, fraud and other crimes under a reorganization planned for January, says Capt. Glenn Winkey, chief of investigations.

"We are going back to work in areas of specialty instead of having all the detectives be generalists," says Winkey, adding, "We're looking to have experts."

Detectives working similar cases all the time can more effectively use the department's crime analysis and will develop closer relationships with prosecutors, who are already somewhat specialized, he says.

Detectives were specialized once -- Winkey, for instance worked in the sex crimes unit in 1986-87 -- but were assigned geographic beats under the Neighborhood Resource Officer push in the late-1980s. The idea was for groups of officers to handle all the crimes, from bike theft to meth sales, in their neighborhoods.

The problem, says one retired detective, is that one person could steal a dozen cars from around the city, leading to a dozen cases being worked by a dozen detectives.

"You can be a jack-of-all-trades, but you'll be master of none... You need to specialize because you might have the same guys stealing cars all over the city," says Mark Grumbly, who worked as a Spokane Police Department investigator for 31 years. Detectives working the same kinds of cases are more effective, he says. "You notice the patterns, you notice the MOs."

The SPD gets 40,000 annual crime reports, but detectives can only work about 2,600.

No wrong door

SPOKANE -- The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) has taken a major step toward coordinating client and service information. Clients who receive more than one service from DSHS can expect the new program -- called No Wrong Door -- to have a positive impact on their interactions with the agency.

"Often problems such as alcoholism and child or elder abuse are linked. In such cases we need to be able to help a client end drug and alcohol abuse in order to prevent the abuse of a vulnerable person," says DSHS Secretary Dennis Braddock in a written release about the new program. "Now we will be able to more easily talk to each other about how best to coordinate services to these clients."

The start-up programs -- one of which is in Spokane -- begin in January and will focus on these DSHS clients: those who receive Long-Term Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), troubled children, teens and their families, and those with multiple disabilities. DSHS has 1.3 million clients statewide, many of whom require assistance in multiple areas of life.

Also under the No Wrong Door program, DSHS experts will begin to meet in multi-disciplinary teams including all case managers and service providers -- rather than one at a time -- when dealing with a client.

"Coordinating our many services to help clients is one of our most important missions," Braddock continues. "Management and technological advances now enable us to be even more effective in meshing the services we provide."
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