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PublicEngines 2014 – The Year of The Customer

An Open Letter from PublicEngines Chief Executive Officer
William Kilmer:

First of all, I would like to sincerely thank each of our customers for their continued support of PublicEngines in 2013. I appreciate your commitment to us and I want to reassure you that our commitment and dedication to your success is more resolute than ever.

By all accounts, last year was a successful one for PublicEngines.  We continued to grow rapidly by providing cloud-based data and analytics products to improve public safety. We added new products, like CommandCentral Predictive, and new capabilities, including a crime dashboard and analytics module to CrimeReports, which we now call CrimeReports Plus.

We recognize that while the economy is improving, these are still economically challenging times.  For many of you, budgets have not increased in the last four years, and for some, they may have even fallen.  No matter what your situation, we understand the continued importance of trying to do more with what resources you have.

Crime Analysis Training, Basic Training, and Advanced Onsite Training

For this reason, as we continue to invest in the development of our products to help you get the most out of our solutions, we also want to invest in our most important asset: you. As we developed our plan of what to focus on for 2014, we felt the need to invest more time and effort in your success.  That is why a major initiative for us this year is to “Ensure Our Customer’s Success.”  You will see this in many ways throughout 2014, including some very new and exciting product features and services that will be announced shortly.

However, our biggest commitment will be to an initiative to increase your success in using our products.  We’ve started to revamp our current product training, and we’ll be adding several free online training modules so you can get the most out of CommandCentral.

Additionally, January marks the beginning a free monthly training webinar titled, “Best Practices for Better Crime Analysis.”  This webinar will focus on modern data analysis and Intelligence-led Policing techniques that can be used in any law enforcement agency to improve your insight and decision-making abilities.  Hundreds have already signed up for the series, which starts on January 27th.  If you are interested, you can view the agenda and register at http://www2.publicengines.com/2014CrimeAnalysisTraining.

For those who would like the opportunity of more extensive training for their entire command staff or force, we are now offering the option of onsite training.  Finally, keep an eye out for a new user forum this year that will provide you an easier way to share your insights with us about how you use our products and what new features you’d like to see, and ways to connect with fellow users from around the world.

With these and other improvements we are making, I think it will be an exciting year for PublicEngines.

I hope that we can continue to earn your trust and business.  If there is anything you feel that we can improve, please feel free to contact me or my team at 801-828-2700.

From everyone at PublicEngines, we wish you the best success in 2014.

Best Regards,

William Kilmer
Chief Executive Officer
PublicEngines

Hot Spot Policing Reduces Crime in Real World Experiment

Today there is an abundance of theories about different strategies and tactics police departments can implement to reduce crime and save tax payer money. Unfortunately, like many theories, they can be difficult to measure, and prove – or disprove.

I recently came across an article in Dispatch called A Hot Spot Experiment: Sacramento Police Department that took the so-called Koper curve theory of hot spot policing, and put it to a real world test.

The Sacramento Police Department tested out the theory, which states that certain neighborhoods or locations will have an unequal distribution of crime when compared to other locations in the same area. The higher crime areas are called hot spots, and the theory says that when there is a visible police presence in these hot spots, crime will drop.

Hot Spot Map

The CommandCentral Heat Map shows density of crime by time per agency patrolling area.

The experiment outlined a ranking of Hot Spots, and two separate groups (Hot Spot Policing, and Routine Patrols) were assigned. Hot Spot Policing was defined as having police officers who are highly visible in the assigned Hot Spot for 12-16 minutes every two hours.

The Sacramento Police Department tested the theory over a three month period. Following are some of the findings of that real world study:

  • Crimes in areas that used Hot Spot Policing decreased by 25 percent
  • Officer productivity improved due to Hot Spot Policing
  • Hot Spot Policing lead to significant cost savings (almost $300,000 over the three month period)

So, while this is only one real world experiment that seemed to show benefits to implementing the Koper curve theory of hot spot policing, more research can be done. I also found it interesting to see how vitally important accurate crime data and statistics are to implementing a technique such as Hot Spot Policing. Accurate crime data allowed Sacramento PD to identify Hot Spots, and track the impact of its experiment. Ultimately it seems, having the ability to collect, track, and analyze crime data, leads to better knowledge, and thus better decision-making.

Congratulations to the Sacrament Police Department for using their data to implement Intelligence Led Policing systems that lower crime, and save money. To read more about this experiment, visit http://cops.usdoj.gov/html/dispatch/06-2012/hot-spots-and-sacramento-pd.asp

 

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 daniel.seals@publicengines.com.

Intelligence Led Policing Yardsticks: Staff Meetings That Lower Crime

So you are nearly ready to kick Intelligence Led Policing into high gear! Your data is right, your training is in place, your command structure and your officers are ready to go. So now what? The next step admittedly requires something that very few of us enjoy: meetings. Meetings are however integral part of Intelligence Led Policing. Strategic and tactical meetings are the most effective methods of disseminating “game plan” information throughout your department. Don’t think of these in the same terms that you think about your current meetings though. These meetings should have a completely different feel to them. Instead of being filled with facts and spreadsheets, these meetings should go way beyond simple numbers. They should answer the question “now what?” As in, “well that’s nice data and all, but now what?”

Let’s look at your staff meeting for instance. In general, most staff meetings are simply crime numbers and maybe a few maps. The meeting generally sounds like this, “we had five of these, 12 of those, blah blah blah,” on and on. Keep in mind I’m speaking from experience here. If I am poking fun at anyone, then I am poking at myself first and foremost. The very first staff meeting that I began with was built around the basic Comp Stat concept. While there is certainly nothing wrong with Comp Stat, the way we were utilizing the method, left us with PowerPoint slides filled with raw data — lacking the “now what?” element. Following the teachings of Intelligence Led Policing, we transformed our staff meeting from a series of reports based on raw numbers, to a fully interactive crime fighting meeting. We did not just look at and study our current crime trends, we compared those trends to historical patterns to assist us in determining the possibility of future patterns. I spoke earlier about strategic and tactical meetings and the importance of having both. Using what we have learned from Intelligence Led Policing, we were able to utilize our staff meeting for both long-term strategic planning as well as short-term tactical crime-fighting plans.

Productive Meetings Include More Than Raw Data

Let me explain what I mean. For starters, I transformed our PowerPoint staff meeting presentation to move from a list of numbers to included charts, satellite maps, heat maps, graphs, and time of day/day of week charts — visualizations for our crime data instead of just list of crimes. I also did not keep myself handcuffed to just the PowerPoint. While using PowerPoint was very important, especially when it came to record keeping, it’s was also key to move beyond simple slides and step into making our meeting more visually engaging and interactive.

intelligence led policing dashboard, crime analytics software

Incorporating real-time intelligence with custom visualizations into your meetings will move them from straight strategic to tactical.

The way I bridged that gap was by having a large drop down projector screen in the middle our meeting room, and then I had two flat screen televisions flanking each side of the projector screen. The flat screen televisions were connected directly to a laptop that I was controlling so that I could show live and historical data in real-time to my command staff – this was in conjunction with the PowerPoint presentation. A typical meeting would consist of reviewing the past month’s crime data – specifically what happened, where it happened, and when it happened. In most meetings, however, questions would arise in relation to crimes that might have a common thread, suspect, or geographic area. The best part is that as questions arose, we were able to transition the meeting on the fly from strategic to tactical; something that was only possible because of the live crime data feed coming from our analytics solution.

Deep Insights and Collaboration Lead to Arrests

I remember one time in particular, a lieutenant was giving a report about some burglaries in his zone.  He was telling the staff about the particular m.o. that his suspect displayed when a different lieutenant from another zone spoke up that he was having similar style burglaries.  At that point a captain had remembered some burglaries from years past that had the same style and mentioned a suspects name, he added that this suspect liked to walk to his crimes.  A quick check of the prison records showed that he had very recently made parole and was living at his mothers address.  I then centered my live map on the suspects mothers’ house and showed the burglaries in question in relation to that house. All of the burglaries in question were within walking distance of his mothers’ house.  Of course, at that point, our detectives took over and were able to close the case based on that information.

I have a few other stories like this to share. And I’m confident that when you move in this direction, you will too. I encourage you to begin the transformation of your department’s meetings with your command staff meeting, and then use that general template for your other meeting needs. Starting with your staff meetings is an excellent vehicle for instructing your command staff on this new Intelligence Led Policing style. It will also allow your command staff to become comfortable enough to conduct their own meetings using this much more efficient and effective style of crime-fighting.

I’d love to hear similar stories and field any questions you may have. Feel free to comment here and/or send me an email at daniel.seals@publicengines.com.

Intelligence Led Policing Yardsticks: Training

So what if I told you that I had a new pistol for your officers to use?  This is no ordinary pistol, oh no, this pistol will improve your officers’ range scores by 20% across the board, the ammo will cost 50% less than what you are paying now, and each pistol comes with its own level 9 holster!   What is level 9 you say? Well it’s a new safety level that we have invented that will improve your officers’ weapon retention ability!  Does the new holster require training to use you ask? Well sure….or you can just hand them out and see what happens.

Of course none of you would send your officers out onto the road without the proper training, especially with something as eternally important as their weapon. Now, I have not invented a great new weapon or a “level 9″ holster for it. Sorry. The point I want to make is that training is at the heart of all good departments.  When we receive new equipment, before we hand it out and send our troops on their way, we train them in the proper use of that new equipment. Without proper training, we cannot expect our officers to perform to their best ability. The same is absolutely true for Intelligence Led Policing.

Don’t Be Too Cool For School

In this blog series, we have covered a massive amount of information about Intelligence Led Policing.  If any of you who have followed my blog series so far have not at some point thought, “I bet this takes some training to implement,” then I’d say you’ve hit the nail on the head.  Please understand, starting with an Intelligence Led Policing

blackboard

methodology is no small change. It is a major shift that must be embraced and trained upon by the entire department. And although it is tempting to place “someone” into the role of Intel Analyst role, please do not make the mistake of only expecting them to be trained in the proper implementation and use of Intelligence Led Policing. This ultimately places your brand new Intel Analyst into the unenviable position of having to complete Intel reports and then explain to those for whom he prepared the reports for as to why he did it this way and the methodology behind it. You will soon find that your new analyst will be spending more time explaining reports then analyzing reports. Now, I understand that you may have budgetary or time concerns when it comes to training to this scale; as a matter of fact, an Assistant Chief of Police from Michigan and I were discussing this very issue recently. But what we both agreed upon is that if we fully believe that something will greatly enhance the crime fighting abilities of our officers and thus improve the safety of our citizens, we can generally find the funding for it.

So, what does this training look like?

Here are some guidelines to go by when looking for a  training program.

Make sure the program:

-Facilitates skills of all rank levels. While not every officer is an analyst, every officer should understand the goal of the analysis. It’s what I like to call, from the Chief to the Street. Your patrol officers – or street cops – should understand basic reporting without the need for long meetings or extended multi-day training courses to explain them. Likewise, in time, they may even learn to pull basic reports themselves.

-Teaches training methods to key members of the department in order to enable them to do entry level training for their officers.

-Uses visual aids in order to demonstrate the true visual efficacy of Intelligence Led Policing

-Monitors and evaluates each student throughout the training in order to accurately gauge their individual performance

-Has a practicum at the end of the training, to ensure success.

-All students should receive post training feedback and continuing education goals.

Now the big question, where do you obtain such training?  Well, I obtained my training from The Alpha Group Center for Crime & Intelligence Analysis Training. Although they are based in California, I did not have to travel to them. They taught their training program at my state training facility.

Now, there are other organizations that have intelligence training programs. I encourage you to contact your state training facility, local colleges or universities, or perhaps a software vendor that you use to see what they have to offer. But I will also say that it has been my experience that many of these organizations teach Crime & Intelligence Analysis to the individual analyst — but not exactly how to implement Intelligence Led Policing within your department for everyone.  Ask a lot of questions to better understand what core student profiles their material targets. It is of the utmost importance that any training on the subject includes a holistic and inclusive effort to educate all force members. As Chief William Bratton once said in 2007, speaking about Intelligence Led Policing, ” … Currently, without a national strategy, or a place where police executives can learn how to implement ILP, it is sitting on the shelf unused.”

Intelligence Led Policing isn’t another fad. And it isn’t a wave of the future. It’s here. It’s among us. And for the few agencies that are fully embracing it, it is paying dividends in the form of more accurate intel that leads to more effective policing decisions that ultimately lower crime.