So what exactly is a crime dashboard? Is this just another buzz term within law enforcement or is it truly something to be utilized to drive the department’s crime-fighting efforts? To be honest, my first thought at the word is something we’re all familiar with: the dashboard in your cruiser. It’s the central hub of your patrol car that gives you an overview on the over all health of your vehicle – amount of gas in the tank, temperature of the engine, oil pressure, speed odometer, tachometer, etc. But that clearly isn’t the same thing.
When discussing dashboards in technology applications, business executives are very familiar with the term. They’ve been using business intelligence dashboard for clear over a
decade. It’s purpose is similar to the car dashboard: to inform the manager of the over all health of the company by measuring key performance indicators, like monthly revenue, number of new customers, number of renewals, and so on.
Likewise, a crime dashboard’s main objective should be to give you an overview of crime trends in your jurisdiction. I call this the who, what, why, when, where of crime intelligence. It should be easy to read and even easier to use in order to make policy decisions that are right for your county, city, or town. Now, there is more than one way to build a crime dashboard, so I’m going to discuss below the most important considerations for creating my own department’s crime dashboard.
But first we need to ask ourselves: what needs to be included in your crime dashboards – crime type, suspect information, narratives, maps? The answer is certainly all of these and even more. Now I will grant you this, without a specific software program that assists you in creating your crime dashboard, it can be a real chore to piece this information together by manual means, but it can be done. This is where I started before using CommandCentral Analytics, which I used for many years.
A specific software platform will certainly make the creation of your crime dashboards a much easier process – essentially a matter of minutes instead of hours or even days. I have found that the best practice tenants that I’m about to outline ring true no matter which method you use to create your dashboards. In reference to the points I’m about to make, I contend that your aim is to have all pertinent information on one screen and have the ability to drill down within your dashboard to gain greater insight.
Considerations When Creating A Crime Dashboard
1. Make sure that you can see where your crimes have occurred.
This is generally achieved through a map visualization. I like to also supplement the mapping function with something such as a pie chart or bar chart to break down the number of occurrences with in a specific beat or zone by crime type.
2. Make sure that you can see when you’re crimes have occurred.
In this case I typically use a Time of Day/Day of Week Heat Map. This map easily displays, through a hot/cold style visualization when the crimes are occurring by a cross-reference of time of day and day of week. That being said, this information can also be displayed in a number of other ways such as; a combination bar chart displaying the time of day and day of week. It is very important to remember that the time of day and day of week need to both be included. Simply looking at the time of day or the day of week on their own leaves too many questions to be answered by your viewer.
3. Make sure that the who and what of your crimes can be easily viewed.
This is undoubtedly the most difficult suggestion that I will give you. The reason it is the most difficult is because it is the most expansive information, and thus the ability to drill down within a visual on your dashboard is invaluable. Really the only way to do this without a piece of software such as CommandCentral Analytics would be to create a secondary list that you could attach to your original dashboard. Logging in to your RMS to view this information individually simple takes too much time and negates the dashboard purpose. However, within CommandCentral Analytics I used the list function for this visual which allowed me the ability to see all the specific information about the crimes I have chosen including the responsible or reporting officer and their entire narrative.
4. Make sure your dashboards are set up in an intelligent manner and in the proper mindset for their intent.
The dashboards you create can be for a number of purposes as well as a number of divisions within your department. Ensure that when you create each dashboard it makes sense for the application it is being created for. For instance, a tactical dashboard for a specific narcotics case should be as specific to that case in all of its visuals as well as its time parameters as it can be. On the other hand, a dashboard that has been created to follow a strategic plan over a long term set of crimes should be modified with time, location, and other factors so as to aid in the long term planning of the specific crime-fighting series.
To sum up, your dashboards should not be viewed as cookie cutters for every situation. Although I believe there are certainly a set of best practice procedures that should be followed to give each of your dashboards maximum effect and usability, I also would direct you to be as individualistic as possible with each dashboard in terms to the specific problem it has been created to address. Every dashboard that you create should directly lead your agency into the proper actionable, intelligence-led decisions that will ultimately aid in reducing crime.