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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

Four Steps To Effectively Using Crime Data in Law Enforcement

It’s no secret that law enforcement agencies are consistently being asked to do more with fewer resources. Budget cuts have meant fewer feet on the street and ever increasing demands on agencies and officers alike. To meet these growing demands, many agencies are increasingly relying on technology to fill that gap.

There are four important steps to make sure that you’re using data to its fullest potential.

1. Collecting the data

The fact of the matter is there is a plethora of data available. Useful data may include department-specific information such as:

  • Recent bookings
  • Various types of crimes that have been committed
  • Calendar of when crimes occurred
  • Maps of where illegal activities took place
  • Written citations

However, according to Doug Wylie, Editor in Chief of PoliceOne, some cities take it a step further to include a much greater holistic view of the community a department serves to include everything from utilities and social services records to new building permits.

2 . Accurate Data

Recently, one big city police department announced it would no longer be releasing monthly crime reports because the Excel files they used to distribute the information were being corrupted. Someone had been changing the data the public viewed. This follows the accusations a couple of years ago that the New York Police Department had been falsifying data.

Audits by PublicEngines reveals that up to 25% of all law enforcement data housed in RMS or CAD systems is not accurately recorded.

However, there are ways to improve data accuracy. According to a recent report, some of the variables that agencies should consider include:

  • Data that is correctly captured. This is crucial because there are myriad of codes, statutes and other minor details that allow for human error. Information can be mislabeled or mapped incorrectly. Regular review and comparison can help catch errors and ensure greater accuracy.
  • Quality report writing that includes correct classifications, a built-in multiple-level review processes, and a system to all for reclassification, supplements and follow-up reports to be reviewed, approved and added.
  • Regular audits of reports to verify accuracy. This might also include periodic surveys of randomly selected citizens, who have reported criminal activity to verify your records accurately reflect the facts as they were reported.

3. Adequately Interpreted Data

Those agencies with analysts rely on these hard-working people to identify crime trends. But they’re stretched thin. The ability for officers to predict crimes not only relieves some of the pressure on analysts, it also helps reduce crime. Access to this information is the key factor.

But with sheer amount of data now being gathered, is there room to interpret it in a way that predicts even more crime?

Take some of the non-criminal data that agencies are gathering that was mentioned by PoliceOne’s Wylie. An officer knows that construction sites often experience the theft of materials, vandalism and graffiti. If he also knows from new building permits that construction is under way in several projects, redirecting himself to those areas can significantly reduce the potential for those crimes.

4.Getting data into hands of those that take action

As the above example illustrates, when officers on the street have access to data, they can act accordingly. However, that can prove a challenge.

Products like CommandCentral Predictive, work to eliminate those challenges. Since it’s cloud-based, it is available literally anywhere it is needed so long as an Internet connected device is available. Reports can even be sent directly to officers via email automatically.

Officers in the field are hardly desk jockeys, which is why allowing them to access the information while in the field via their mobile phone or tablet is so important. It can literally be the difference between a crime being prevented and a crime occurring.

Data is available – maybe even too much data is available – but there are ways to harness that information to help predict and prevent crime. Collecting that data from a wide variety of sources, ensuring its accuracy and interpreting its value are important first steps. However, utilizing technology – getting this information to officers wherever they may be – allows them to predict crime and make the streets safer for everyone.

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: 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.