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5 Reasons to Visit PublicEngines in Booth 347 at IACP 2013

The countdown to IACP 2013 is on. With merely 11 days before the exhibit begins as of this writing, I’m sure you’re brimming with excitement to visit with old friends, find a few new products to take home with you, snag a cheese steak, and of course Chiefs Night. Last year in San Diego was a blast as the entire Gas Lamp District was closed down for the show attendees. The association brought in food vendors, musicians, street performers, DJs, and arial artists for a little R&R time.

But you don’t have to wait for night two to get the show started right. Join PublicEngines at booth 347 to see what many are sure to be talking about when the show is over.

Here’s 5 Reasons To Visit Us Starting On Day 1:

  1. The NFL –  You read that right. We’re streaming the games live on Sunday in stunning HD on a big screen. Why? Because nobody is happy about missing their team’s game. Don’t settle for highlights. Take a plop down on one of our couches and catch all the action.
  2. Snacks – Because you can’t watch football without them! Now we aren’t talking wings or brats, but we’ll definitely have a cure for your case of the munchies.
  3. Daily Raffle – On Sunday and Monday at 2:30 pm and Tuesday at 11 am we’re hosting the mother of all raffles. Come by to win iPads, wireless speakers, tactical pens from Smith and Wesson, or a Google Nexus 7 tablet. Plus, on Tuesday we’re giving away the grand prize that includes our Tactical (and technical) Goodie Bag. You’ll love what’s inside. Prior to each raffle will be a brief overview of CommandCentral Predictive  – our newest and the most technologically advanced predictive analytics tool on the market. Attending this will earn you one raffle ticket. Get a demo of one of our other products earlier in the day to earn more tickets and of course more chances to win.
  4. FREE CrimeReports – That’s right, the online crime map that started it all is now totally and completely free to local law enforcement agencies – forever. Come on by to see how to get your agency on the largest and most widely used, ad-free crime map in the world. CrimeReports is the perfect community engagement tool that allows citizens to view local crime on a map, register for automatic email updates, and even submit anonymous tips about crime.
  5. Predictive Analytics – Predictive analytics is the hottest topic sweeping the technology circuit in law enforcement communities everywhere. The problem is, many confuse it with tools that allow you to engage in predictive policing initiatives. And while predictive policing is still important and relevant, predictive analytics is very different — think of it as the next level. Imagine a tool that provides daily crime predictions – including type, date, time, and location – automatically and with the ability to deliver reports directly to officer email inboxes. That’s what we’re showcasing this year. The ultimate tool for agencies looking to lower crime amongst slashed budgets and strained resources. This tool – CommandCentral Predictive – is THE game changer in the industry.

So, while you have many choices among booths to visit and classes to attend this year at IACP 2013, you don’t want to miss visiting the PublicEngines booth #347, early and often. In fact, if you come by, tell us you read this blog and we’ll give you an extra raffle ticket for that day’s drawing!

Predictive Analytics Where it Matters: Preventing Crime

Screen Shot 2013-08-06 at 10.58.55 AM

Today there is a lot of buzz about the use of predictive analytics in business.  Spurred in part by the best selling book, Predictive Analytics: The Power to Predict Who Will Click, Buy, Lie or Die, by Eric Siegel, it seems that everyone is talking about ways to predict every major and minor event in our lives.

As with every application of technology, there are implementations that can have a higher, or lower impact on society.  At PublicEngines, we have long believed in the application of analytics to improving quality of life in general, and specifically to fighting crime.  That’s why we were pleased to announce our newest product last week: CommandCentral Predictive.

CommandCentral Predictive is a significant step forward in the use of predictive analytics to accomplishing law enforcement’s goal of preventing crime and improving our communities by making them safer.  In particular, from the time we conceived this product through to its final development, there were two things that were most important to us: accuracy and ease-of-use.

Pre-eminent in our thought process was to create a product that accurately predicts potential crime.  The entire basis of this product is to more accurately digest data and provide an accurate, unbiased view of the highest probability of crime on a daily basis.  So, the science behind it had to be sound.   That’s why we designed our prediction engine using multiple algorithms to optimize its effectiveness and verified it with extensive field-testing.

Of almost equal importance to us was to design the product with the highest ease of use.  It doesn’t matter how good the product is, if the interface isn’t easy to navigate,  it won’t be used.  So, we designed the product from the start with the idea that users need to be able to jump in the product right from the beginning with little to no training.  Then, we took that design to officers, analysts, and command staff, and asked for their input on how to make it better and we redesigned it based on their feedback (more on this in another post).  The result is something that is functional and highly usable; delivering a daily report in a way that any officer can use to improve the way they police.

With an announcement of a product like this there is no doubt that naysayers will voice their opinions.  In particular, we’ve heard those who will say that advanced crime analytics software can’t replace crime analysts.  And they are right.  That’s not our intent.  However, we know how much time analysts have and where their demands are.  Analysts spend a significant amount of time working with officers and patrol supervisors on their areas of patrol responsibility.  They’ve told us they’re overwhelmed with more work than they can handle.  CommandCentral Predictive is designed to help them take a significant demand and essentially automate the prediction of high-probability events and give them more time for analysis.  For those agencies without an analyst (a majority), this is a significant boost by giving them the tactical, directed analysis their officers need but can’t currently afford.

Others may cite instances where software has not worked well at making predictions, such as the military’s use of prediction software to forecast political unrest.  But what we have seen is that, like what you purchase, where you shop, or what you look at online, crime occurs, for the most part, in a repeatable, predictable pattern.  And our field-testing has shown that our algorithms are far more accurate in seeing both long- and short-term trends, modeling them, and learning and improving along the way.  In fact, this very field-testing has show us to be, on average, 2.7 times more accurate than traditional hotspot models at determining where the next crimes will occur.

Tim O’Reilly, the well-known media technologist, once said, “We’re entering a new world in which data may be more important than software.”  I think this is especially true in law enforcement, where enforcement officers have the data to help themselves, but have traditionally struggled through poor software tools to help them analyze it.  So, while we are proud and excited about CommandCentral Predictive, what we are most excited about is this product’s potential to unlock the patterns and intelligence in agency’s data and helping them to make better and more effective policing decisions.

Intelligence Led Policing Yardsticks: Prevention, Disruption and Enforcement

Congratulations! Your technology is set up, you’ve had your meetings, and your entire department is on the same page with regards to Intelligence Led Policing. This is going to be the next best thing since radios, Tasers, and Velcro duty belts! But alas, I’ve saved the hardest implementation step for the last: putting Intelligence Led Policing into long term action.

At the Heart of the Organization

Intelligence Led Policing is not something that can be tried for a season and then put on the shelf. In this blog series we have discussed how it must be the heart of an organizational-wide approach to policing. Intelligence Led Policing, like most new things to your department, will take an adjustment period for everyone to become comfortable in using it. No more will what I call the “shotgun method” of patrolling be adequate or effective in your department. The “shotgun method” of patrolling consists of driving around in your zone checking your buildings, answering calls, and otherwise seeing if you can drive up on something.keystone cops No, as you learned, there is a much more effective way to direct your patrols to where they need to be and when they need to be there utilizing the intelligence that you already have at your disposal. By using your geographic and hotspot maps, and time of day/day of week charts to direct patrol, your officers stand a much greater chance to prevent or disrupt a criminal pattern in their area.

Specialized Reports per Team Keys Intelligence Led Policing Success 

And patrol is not the only beneficiary of your new Intelligence Led Policing initiative. Your department’s special teams will certainly benefit from this newfound directive. I’m a big believer in specialized reports for special teams — such as narcotics, traffic, detective bureau and SWAT. For instance, in my career I created specialized reports for narcotics that not only showed the house that they were investigating, but the houses in close proximity that were also dealing narcotics. The obvious benefit of these reports would be to show possible networks of narcotics sales localized in certain neighborhoods. An added benefit, and a safety benefit, would be to use those maps when planning undercover operations so as not to base your operation near a house with similar criminal activity that might compromise your location.

For my traffic teams, reports on specific streets where the most speeding tickets were written might indicate where we would need to set up a speed reduction device such as a traffic monitoring trailer or red light camera.

I routinely produced reports based solely on the cases assigned to my detectives division separated by property and persons crimes. I was able to show, through various visualizations, where the majority of each zone-assigned detective’s cases were originating from, and from a historical view of that report, estimate the seasonal caseload that each detective might expect so that they might focus on their most prolific and serious offenders.

And finally, for my SWAT team, I was able to create a report that showed, through the use of geographical satellite maps and criminal activity overlay, the best possible access route to a target location. For instance, I would create a map with a target location in the center of the map. I would then overlay similar crimes along the planned route to that target location. With that information, we were able to layout our safest route to the target location, avoiding any locations with similar criminal activity in order to minimize the possibility of conflict or identification before the target location.

Think Beyond Known Limitations

My best advice to you and your department as you begin this new Intelligence Led Policing chapter, would be to look outside the box that we all create for ourselves within each department. Ask yourself, how would this information, visualized in a different way, help better the department? Ask your staff, if I could improve one thing about how I receive information on crimes, what would it be? Then work with those suggestions to tailor your Intelligence Led Policing approach specifically toward your department’s needs. Do not assume that just because you are used to a certain reporting style or visualization, that it’s the best way or the only way to create that report. Like most cops, I have a strange sense of humor, and therefore really enjoy de-motivational posters. You know, the ones that look like motivational posters, but actually have a cynical or smart alec way of looking at things. My favorite of these posters kind of sums up my approach to breaking out of our predetermined boxes to reach new levels of policing. It’s a picture of a group of men participating in the “Running of the Bulls.” In this particular picture, one of the men is about to get the business end of a bull – if you know what I mean. The caption on the poster reads “Tradition. Just because we’ve always done it this way, doesn’t mean it’s not incredibly stupid.” Challenge yourself to take your intelligence products to a new level. Prove to your staff and colleagues that the department could be doing even more to ensure the safety of its citizens. And never let tradition rule the day just because it’s the way things have always been done.

As always, I appreciate your comments and feedback. I encourage you to comment here or send me a note at

Boston Marathon Bombings & Social Media: Law Enforcement Got It Right!

It was after 11:00 p.m. and I was sitting safely on the couch in my living room, more than 2,300 miles away from the chaos in Boston. I had shut off the television and was about to log off my laptop, and head to bed, when I read a post from a journalist friend of mine who lives in San Diego saying: It’s going down in Boston right now! with links to a few Twitter feeds covering the breaking news.

I, like a lot of Americans, had been closely following the events following the terrible bombings at the Boston Marathon. I opened Twitter, and found the @NewsBreaker account.  Managed by David Begnaud, the Twitter account was posting breaking news Tweets every few minutes as the events unfolded in Boston. From @NewsBreaker, I found a link to the Boston Police Scanner, and was able to listen in as well. And, I was crazy enough to also have CNN on my television.

About four hours later, I shut everything down, and went to bed. To me, I learned several things that night about the amazing power of social media, as well as some of the real pitfalls.


After following the story that week, it became obvious to me I needed to identify credible sources of information. In the hunt for breaking news and ratings, much of the news media failed at being credible sources. CNN, for example, earlier in the week mis-reported that an arrest had been made – and additionally that the suspect was a “dark skinned male.” Both were false, and law enforcement later corrected them by going to Twitter and issuing statements about the false news. But it was too late. The news of an apprehended suspect spread like wildfire on the Internet, only to be withdrawn later.

Additionally, The New York Post falsely put out a series of incorrect news stories, including a cover story that included a large photograph of innocent people, leading many to conclude they were the bombers, and potentially putting their personal safety at risk. The Post had also included reports of a “Saudi national” in connection with the bombings that proved untrue.

You can read more about these media failures with these news stories:

CNN’s double breakdown: So much for ‘abundance of caution

Media Criticize New York Post, CNN For Boston Marathon Bombings Coverage


After being duped a few times by traditionally credible news sources, I turned to official law enforcement for the most accurate news. Specifically: @Boston_Police (Boston Police Department), and @EdDavis3 (Boston Police Commissioner) on Twitter. Their motives had nothing to do with getting a news scoop, or ratings; rather their motives were public safety, and accurate communication. In addition to the amazing job these individuals and groups did in protecting citizens and capturing the suspects – they also did a fantastic job using modern tools like social media.

This event has made it clear that law enforcement must embrace and use new technologies to communicate with the public. I have tried to imagine what it would have been like if I lived in Watertown, Mass., during the town lockdown as law enforcement worked to capture the suspects. It would have been terrifying. And, as I’ve discussed in this blog post, the media proved to not be a reliable source of information. Naturally Watertown residents turned to the most credible sources they could find – ultimately this was law enforcement.

Here are some of the best Tweets from the Boston PD and other credible sources.

Boston Police Dept. TwitterBoston Police Dept. TwitterBoston Police Dept. Twitter

Boston Police Dept. Twitter

Boston Police Ed DavisBoston Police Ed Davis Twitter

Boston Police Dept. Twitter

Boston Police Dept. Twitter

In closing, law enforcement agencies today can distribute important information to the public through a variety of means, including websites, blogs, Twitter, and Facebook. It’s vital agencies provide ways the public to access this information on their smart phone through tools like CityConnect, which integrates many online agency websites into one smart phone application. Agencies can learn more about using the power of social media in The Definitive Guide for Social Media Engagement for Law Enforcement.


Over 100 LEAs participate in a Global Tweet-along Tweet-athon March 22

Map of tweet-a-thon participants wordwide

Map of tweet-a-thon participants worldwide


Starting at 8 a.m. on March 22, law enforcement agencies around the  world connected via Twitter to participate in a 24-hour Tweet-a-thon  to bring attention to the use of social media by law enforcement. Throughout the day, more than 100 law enforcement agencies from the US, United Kingdom, Canada, Sweden, Iceland and Australia tweeted messages, photos and video of 911 calls being answered by officers on patrol using the hashtag #poltwt;  twitter fans were encouraged to submit questions as they followed along.


A tweet from a tweetalong hosted by Rapid City PD


Tweetalong: The Ride Along of the Digital Age

With the advent of social media the traditional [civilian] ride-along has gone digital. In a ride along, a civilian would spend a shift as a passenger in a police car on patrol observing the workday of an officer. With a tweet-along officers on patrol chronicle the crime fighting activities of their shift–responding to 911 calls, chasing fugitives, making arrests–by tweeting photos, video and other information in real-time for twitter fans to follow along.

In recent years, the tweetalong has become somewhat of a booming phenomenon among law enforcement as agencies increasingly recognize its potential in showing the public a side of law enforcement that they don’t often see.

“Anytime we have the chance to give the public a glimpse of how we do our jobs and the type of calls our officers respond to is a good thing. This Tweetalong will allow the LVMPD to connect with its community in an exciting, real time way while also providing education” said Las Vegas PD Sheriff Doug Gillespie.

By hosting tweetalongs, police departments like the Las Vegas PD help to improve their agency’s transparency and rapport within the community by sharing a personal and sometimes gritty on-the-scene perspective with the community. Tweetalongs also enable the community to engage with the agency in real-time by tweeting questions and comments to officers out on the beat.

Organizer Lauri Stevens, founder of LAWS Communications hopes [the] global Tweet-a-thon will bring greater awareness to law enforcement’s growing community outreach efforts through social media. “We hope it sends the message to community members that…they should use [social media] as another means of communicating with local authorities” she said.

Encouraging law enforcement use of social media

While twitter use and the ‘tweetalong’ is becoming a common practice for law enforcement agencies around the world, many agencies have yet to become active on the social media platform. According a recent survey by International Association of Chiefs of Police, just less than half of local law enforcement agencies are actively using twitter to engage the public.  Participants of the global tweet-a-thon, like the Middleton WI PD, are looking to change that.

“We hope our participation continues to positively influence the rapidly growing acknowledgement, acceptance and use of social media by public safety agencies around the world” -said Keith Cleasby, social media manager of Middleton WI PD.


To learn more about how your agency can use Twitter and other tools to maximize community engagement in the social media-verse we encourage you to download our “Definitive Guide to Social Media Engagement for Law Enforcement”