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Historical Address Searches with CommandCentral

One of my favorite tasks as an intelligence analyst was to find correlations between location, suspect, and crime committed.  I can tell you firsthand however that all of the fun is taken out of that when an analyst has to do it with paper records and reports.  When I was a detective assigned to Internet crimes, I was truly a “paper hound”.  Finding details within paper and electronic records was for me, an exciting task.  I know it sounds very mundane, but finding connections where there seemed to be no connections is truly were the detective work or the work of Intel analyst rises to the top.  It is for this reason that my favorite function within CommandCentral Analytics is the key word search function.  For it is within this function that I can search a suspect’s name, business name or specific address to generate a list and map of the criminal activities that occurred around the search terms.

The first thing you need to begin this type of search is a bit of a change in your mind set.  The searches do not involve focusing on bulk sets of data, instead you should be focusing on specific addresses or neighborhoods, or family groups and specific family members coupled together with specific crime types and date ranges.  As you begin to see clusters of the same suspect or family group committing a certain type of crime in a particular area of your jurisdiction, you should then add further crime types, one by one, to visualize whether or not that suspect or family group is committing multiple crime types within the same area.  This is especially useful in investigations that revolve around gang activity.  In general, gangs have an area that they frequent and function their criminal activities around.  On the same note, gangs often have certain crime types that they specialize in.  This type of search ability allows the Intel analyst to present a clear picture of criminal activity perpetrated by one person or a group of people within a geographic area.

This method of searching within CommandCentral Analytics can produce results that are extremely gratifying and quite granular.  This is specifically the type of information that is necessary to affect tactical organizations such as; gang units, narcotics units, as well as violent crime or robbery units.  Historically this information has been difficult to obtain simply because it required the analyst to pour through a myriad of documents by hand, painstakingly taking out the specific information deemed necessary by the investigation.  Now, by using this search technique within CommandCentral Analytics, Intel analysts are much better equipped to efficiently generate reports that are immediately and tactically actionable.

Crime Dashboards Should be Used In Every Department

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

Executive BI Dashboard

Executive BI Dashboard

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.

Crime Dashboards Provide Agencies an Overview of Crime at a single glance.

Crime Dashboards Provide Agencies an Overview of Crime at a single glance.

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.

Crime Data Quality and Validation – A Necessity for Every Agency

Accurate Mapping is The Epicenter for Making Sense of Your Crime Data

Let’s talk about mapping. Very few mapping systems, whether you are using GIS or some other type of mapping system, are always spot on. The reasons for these inaccuracies vary widely. From inaccurate GIS mapping at the onset, to duplicate addresses in your city that are only separated by a North-South or East-West designation, or simply a user data-entry mistake. Previously, I couldn’t change these map points in my records management system, nor did I have admin over the county GIS system that would allow me to change the points. However, I can now change them with CommandCentral. Recently, PublicEngines released a new feature dubbed the Data Quality and Validation tool, or DQV for short. With just a few steps I am now able to take my map, with an average of 150 inaccuracies a month, and turn it into a completely accurate crime map, with no inaccuracies.

How My Data Accuracy Quest Began

When I began the intelligence unit at my agency in the greater Atlanta area, one of the things I noticed first off was how inaccurate our crime mapping system seemed to be. As I began looking into the problem, I found that instead of it being the result of a single error, it was actually the result of a myriad of errors. Among those, were inaccurate geocoding, areas of my city that had been annexed in but not yet geocoded, duplicate addresses within my city, and of course data entry mistakes.

Now as you can imagine, as I began to remedy this situation I felt a little like a dog chasing its tail — I was certainly moving but I wasn’t making any progress. During one staff meeting, it became even more apparent that I needed to do something about the mapping inaccuracies when we began looking at crimes broken down by zone specifics.  We looked for crimes that we knew had occurred in a certain zone so that we could speak about them as a command staff and form a tactical action plan. But when we began searching for them, we weren’t able to find the specific crimes. As I began searching within my RMS to locate these “lost” crimes, I found them all mapped outside of my city boundaries. Many of these “lost” crimes were plotted tens, hundreds, and even thousands of miles away from where they should have been.  We had a serious problem to say the least, and unfortunately, no solution.

Fast-forward to my time at PublicEngines. One of the key drivers in developing the DQV tool was the research that I conducted in proactively auditing our customer’s databases. I found very quickly that my agency, with 150 mis-maps a month, was by far not on its own. The vast majority of agencies have mapping problems that they are either not aware of, or lack the to ability to fix. This is why I am so excited to introduce to you the DQV tool. Not only will you be able to identify all occurrences mapped outside of your jurisdictional boundaries, but you will be able to correct those errors in just a few steps.

A New Solution to An Age-Old Problem

crime data, crime data qualtiyAs I’m sure you can attest, accurate data is paramount to conducting crime analysis that leads to actionable intelligence and crime reduction. The DQV tool in CommandCentral ensures that the most common data errors – mis-mapped and mis-classified crimes – are easily correctable so agency personnel can make resource decisions with confidence.

Here are a few highlights of its capabilities.

  • Built-in alert bar notifies CommandCentral Analytics administrators when incidents are geocoded outside of an agency’s jurisdiction.
  • Click-to-correct mismapped incidents – inaccurately mapped crimes can be corrected simply by clicking on the CommandCentral Map
  • Create rules so that all future data synched to CommandCentral is mapped accurately
  • Edit crime incident categorization
  • Maintain data fidelity – changes are only made in CommandCentral, not in your RMS

Identifying mis-mapped crimes is as easy as selecting an Out of Area button in the system’s administration section. The tool then generates a list of occurrences that were all mapped outside of your jurisdictional boundaries. You can select any single occurrence listed to see where it’s currently positioned on the map, and then override it. This process is easy: simply select where that occurrence should be mapped. You can change the pin for this specific incident only or for all incidents previously mis-mapped in the same manner — which is especially important when it is one of those addresses that are constantly in error.

Visualizing and analyzing crime data through crime mapping solutions has been an essential tool in every agency’s arsenal since the mid 1800′s with the advent of the pin-map. Today, online tools make the task easier than ever. But the question remains, is the data you’re viewing accurate? With the DQV tool you can now be sure of it.

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!

CommandCentral Predictive: Built for Field Use

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We have had tremendous feedback since we announced our newest product, CommandCentral Predictive, several weeks back.  Since the announcement we have literally heard from hundreds of agencies.  Last week I was on the road speaking to agencies, including several of our existing customers and hopefully some new ones.

It is hugely rewarding to see such response given the amount of time and effort we have put into creating CommandCentral Predictive.  This launch is the culmination of months of meeting with customers and getting their continuous feedback on the product, and the extraordinary effort by our team to turn that feedback into tangible changes in the product.

During the course of developing this product we spoke with many law enforcement agencies about product features and had dozens of recommendations on how to build a better product.   Some we have been able to include in the first generation, and others that are still to come.

From my meetings in the last two weeks there were two things that have really stood out about CommandCentral Predictive feedback.  First is that every agency that I have spoken to is looking for a better way to direct and enable their patrol officers to increase their effectiveness.  It’s simply an issue of how to maximize their resources in the most effective way through direction and information enablement.

The second item goes along with that was something that we have heard all along: that anything we provide needed to be usable in the field, not just another screen on a computer for someone to look at.

That hit home last week when I visited a large agency who is currently testing their own internally-developed predictive analytics solution.  While they have yet to determine whether or not to roll it out, one of the concerns they had was whether or not officers will actually use it.  Their limited trials have had mixed results and previous experience with another application showed limited success because very few officers got to the first step: logging on.

We realized this early in the development of this product which led us to two needs: first, to build CommandCentral Predictive with mobile devices in mind, and second, to empower officers with real data to make smarter, more informed decisions.

The mobile part was a no-brainer.  If they haven’t started already, almost every agency envisions the time when they will drop their MDT’s (Mobile Data Terminal) for tablet devices.  So, we built this product not only to be run on a tablet or large smart phone, but to be optimized for it.

Second, we built functionality into it so that users could access the underlying data driving predictions.  And it was designed to present this information to officers so they could easily access it and use it to make better decisions when they are in the field.

This data accessibility was validated time and again last week as I spoke with agencies, who see the value in empowering their officers with data in the field that help them to make better decisions and actions.  It simply helps to make better, smarter decisions while on patrol.  And, most importantly, it does it automatically, improving information flow without burdening an analyst with pulling data for officers (more on this another time).

Anyone who takes CommandCentral Predictive for a test drive will see how easy it is to access information that will put an officer at the advantage.  It’s just one of those things we built into CommandCentral Predictive that makes is such an exciting product.  We look forward to more feedback as we meet with customers and continuing to innovate on CommandCentral Predictive to make it the most effective tool to predict and prevent crime.