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Timely Crime Data that is Easy to Interpret Leads to Better Law Enforcement Decisions

Organizations of all types, especially law enforcement agencies, are being buried in Big Data. As defined by Wikipedia, the term Big Data  represents data so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process.

The same problem can also referred to as Information Overload, and aside from the technical challenges to Big Data, too much information can be difficult to access, store, share, and be useful. In today’s more electronic world, we aren’t in jeopardy of being buried in paper – rather the biggest threat of all is that the data goes unused.

Useful information leads to better knowledge, and thus better decision-making.  A typical approach to managing data and information can be:

  1. Collect raw data
  2. Sort into useful information
  3. Analyze information
  4. Share findings
  5. Information is turned into useful knowledge

The Information Sharing Environment (ISE) provides vital information about terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and homeland security to analysts, operators, and investigators in the U.S. government. From ISE’s Website:

A fundamental component of effective enterprise-wide information sharing, for example, is the use of information systems that regularly capture relevant data and make it broadly available to authorized users in a timely and secure manner.

While focused on activities mostly related to terrorism, ISE acknowledges its ideas of data sharing are extremely effective in local law enforcement as well.

In law enforcement, timely and accurate information is vital; as untimely or inaccurate information simply causes problems. PublicEngines audits show that up to 25% of all law enforcement data housed in RMS or CAD systems in the average agency is not accurate – often mislabeled or improperly mapped. This can lead to a poor allocation of resources and confusion.

However, some agencies struggle with sharing relevant and timely information at all. Time spent reporting, analyzing, and distributing information can be tedious, and time-consuming. And with up to 59% of agencies stating there is a lack of staff for crime analysis, it’s no surprise the critical information is often not shared.

The lessons are clear – sharing data that is relevant, timely, and easy to interpret, is an effective way to become more efficient in law enforcement.

PublicEngines recently announced it has added Email Reports to its widely popular CommandCentral Analytics solution. You can read the announcement here: PublicEngines Launches Email Reports for CommandCentral

Creating more tools that allow for easier sharing of critical information is a step in the right direction of tackling this challenge of too much information for law enforcement. This is especially true when the information shared is easy-to-read and interpret. The more people that have access to timely and valuable information, the better law enforcement decisions will be made.

So, how is timely and relevant information shared at your agency? Do you have an internal process, meeting, or technology solution that works particularly well for you? Let us know in the comments section.

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 – Department-wide Roll Out

All Aboard The ILP TrainTrain

No, this article is not about trains, but chances are the sub-title has got you wondering. When you think about it, the concept of Intelligence Led Policing is not unlike a train itself. A train  is “a series of railroad cars moved as a unit by a locomotive or by integral motors.”  So when you speak of a train, you speak of all of the cars linked together moving down the track toward one common destination.This analogy should be the same for the functionality of our departments. Theoretically we should be moving toward the same destination. Unfortunately that’s not often the case.

In my last blog entry I wrote that to introduce Intelligence Led Policing to your department first required a supportive and informed command structure. So now that our command structure has bought in to the concept, we need that information to be distributed throughout the entire department. Easier said than done. As law-enforcement entities we have a tendency to compartmentalize ourselves into different divisions or groups. The great majority of which have a purposeful and utilitarian role; patrol units, criminal investigation units, crime scene units, community outreach units, support services units, and the list goes on. However, these necessary yet compartmentalized units are a double edged sword. What I mean is, all of this compartmentalization adds to one of our departments greatest hurdles: where the right-hand doesn’t know what the left-hand is doing. We all know and experience this problem day in and day out. No matter which of these units you find yourself in, very seldom do you understand the scope of direction of each individual department.

Department-wide Roll Out

It is for this very reason that when you implement Intelligence Led Policing into your organization, it is imperative that you move forward with a Department-wide Roll Out. Do not fall victim to the line of thinking that says the only person(s) in your department that needs to be trained in Intelligence Led Policing are those that are in your ILP division. This is the same line of thinking that believes ILP can work based on ILP staff issuing reports to the department anchored solely on the training and information only the ILP staff know. In reality that kind of thinking just leads to a lack of trust and belief in the system because it all hovers around one individual or a group of individuals that seem to “hold the keys.” Allow your trained Intelligence Led Policing staff to introduce and train the rest of your department in how the methodology works and how each department member can and should have a role in the process. This way everyone becomes a stakeholder with key roles and responsibilities, guiding them to take ownership in the program’s success. This approach holds true for departments large and small – even those that can’t afford to have an ILP division with multiple people in it. No matter how you decide to implement Intelligence Led Policing into your agency, it must be implemented and trained upon at a departmental scale.

Here’s a Few Steps to Follow 

  • Evaluate Technology Vendors – What vendors offer industry specific analytics solutions? Define a list of feature must haves versus nice to haves. Look at how any given system handles your RMS/CAD data, what feature sets it has (and what those allow you to do), how it secures your data, what type of support is provided by the company, how long a typical implementation and training takes, and of course cost. Note: while it isn’t totally necessary to make a technology purchase, the point is to develop new insights from analyzing your data over time in a rapid, on-demand manner. Manual analysis requires detailed manipulation that can take days or weeks to build reports – instead of minutes.
  • Introductory Meeting – Be prepared to introduce ILP to your agency in a series of meetings held with one to two departments at a time. You’ll want to define it, illustrate current agency pain points, describe goals with moving towards this methodology, and present a plan with a timeline for a full roll out.
  • Data Management – You’ve got to have a basic understanding of your data. Make sure your crime reports correlate to the appropriate crime types. They should also include date, time, location, and detailed notes. Some analytics solutions will help you clean your data so that you get valuable information out of your systems. But you still need to understand how that data has been entered into the system over the years. This may be a painful process, but will reap rewards that in the end allow you to make tactical decisions that help you lower crime.
  • Create Expectations - Moving towards an ILP model – while directed by the people in charge of intelligence – requires multiple stakeholders to pitch in. From analysts, to command staff, to officers, and dispatch, there should be clear training and expectations on how new systems will be used and processes followed.
  • Support Expectations With Training – In order to make sure all agency members are on the same page, prepare entry level training into how to conduct ILP and how to use new systems. Understand that some people will learn by listening and others need visuals. Don’t just talk about the new system. Be ready to open it, walk through it, and show the trainees basic functionality. Also, tailor your presentation to your audience. If your analysts will use the technology differently than your command staff (and they should), make sure you show each audience how they can use it to their specific benefit. Conducting online training? Record the session so people can follow up. To do all this you may need to bring in your technology provider to conduct the training. Reputable vendors will provide this as part of their package/service. Additionally, some will have options for consultancy. An consultant will be able to review your data, set up your systems, and take a deep dive with your intelligence person(s) in a way that goes beyond basic training.
  • Follow Up  – Prepare follow up emails with tips and best practices throughout the year following the launch of your ILP initiative. It’s important to continually positively reinforce what your staff can do with the system. Schedule group meetings from time-to-time to illustrate key points. And finally, report results on a monthly basis so that everyone in the agency can see how this methodology is making an impact in the community.

In my first year of moving to ILP and integrating an new analytics solution we were able to gain insights and make field-level decisions that ultimately led to a 20% reduction in FBI part 1 crimes. The downward trend continued in the two years that followed. If you’re interested in learning more about how to get started, send me a note at daniel.seals@publicengines.com, I’d be glad to have a chat with you. Stay tuned for my next entry in this Yardsticks for Intelligence Led Policing series.

Bullied Bus Monitor Video Goes Viral

This morning as I poured over the latest USA Today headlines, a story about the following video going viral over the last few days caught my attention. And it got me thinking, what is it about kids where they feel the need to bully, pick on, and just down right be rude to other people – whether their fellow classmates or, as in this example, 68-year-old bus monitor Karen Klein? As of the timing of this post the 10 minute-plus video has received more than 1.6 million views and many more video responses and comments. What we’re really interested in from the perspective of the education system is how do we teach kids the importance of respect for each other and what type of discipline is an appropriate response?

While the video is difficult to watch, the feel good story coming from the episode is that one viewer, moved by what he watched, used the popular fundraising site indiegogo.com to start a modest fund to send Klein on a much deserved vacation with a $5,000 budget. The public’s response? The fund as it sits this moment has received $256,498 and is growing so rapidly that the Website hosting it is experiencing traffic overload – http://www.indiegogo.com/loveforkarenhklein.

So what do you think – beyond parental disciplining, what role should the education establishment play in teaching kids about the negative affects of bullying?

By the way, Klein’s response to the pestering, “Unless you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

Looks like Ms. Klein is getting the last laugh.

*Please note the following content may be viewed by some as profane and vulgar.

Pensacola PD Reaches Out to Local Citizens


Photo by divemasterking2000 via Flickr

Just came across this great news story about CrimeReports from Fox 10 in Pensacola, Florida. Near the end a man who runs a community center comments that a map like our could harm people who live in high-crime areas. What are your thoughts?

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