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Connect with Your Citizens Anywhere They Want - CityConnect: New Mobile App for Law Enforcement

Law Enforcement to Community Communication – dialogue, not monologue

For many law enforcement agencies, when asked if they have a social media program, their answer will be something like, “yes, we have a Facebook page, and Twitter account.” A good start, but as a standalone, this doesn’t exactly define a program.

Many agencies struggle to gain traction once they launch an agency Facebook page. Take for example, the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office that was recently featured in the PublicEngines Definitive Guide to Social Media Engagement for Law Enforcement Agencies 2013. The agency launched its Facebook page, but after three years, only had about 200 Likes, and almost no engagement or interaction with the community. Almost by accident, the Agency went from 200 Likes to several hundreds when hurricane Sandy hit as people in the community were searching for credible sources about the storm and public safety issues.

We can learn from the spike in Likes and engagement Niagara experienced, and it can be done without the help of a hurricane!

The Guide to Social Media Engagement list six ideas for growing your audience and engaging with them:

  1. download The Definitive Guide to Social Media Engagement for Law Enforcement AgenciesHold an Launch Event. Many agencies have successfully hosted a social media launch event (Facebook) by tying into an existing community events. Another example was when the Virginia State Police Department launched its Facebook page on the anniversary of a community-known unsolved homicide.
  2. Obtain Publicity. Most agencies have good working relationship with local media. By issuing a news announcement & having news stories about the social media initiative, agencies can gain awareness, likes/followers, and begin the engagement process.
  3. Promote Social Media Profiles on Agency Website. In addition to making people aware the profiles exist, agencies can also ask questions on the website, and ask the community to provide comments on its social sites.
  4. Use Email to Promote Social Sites & Engage. From including links to social sites in email signatures, to direct outreach emails asking for Likes, or community-related questions, email can be a great way to communicate.
  5. Maintaining Engagement. By providing consistent and predicable information that is useful, actionable, compelling, and sharable with others, fans and followers will begin to anticipate and look forward to these posts. Engagement is sure to follow.
  6. Use CityConnect. All citizens to access all of the agencies social media and web CityConnectaccounts to citizens through their smart phones to make connecting and engagement easy, and always available. CityConnect is an agency-branded mobile app that does just that. From allowing people to deliver crime tips, to accessing CrimeReports, and even for emergency updates, there is no better way to connect with people today than through their smart phone.

The full Guide contains more details, and useful case examples. You can download it here.

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.

Trash that Dirty Crime Intel. Data Management Made Easy

 

Oscar the Grouch Won’t Stand For Inadequate Garbage, And Neither Should You Settle For Inadequate Data Management Systems

So you want to steer your agency towards Intelligence-Led Policing? The first thing you need to look at is your data set. Over and over again I see agencies hastily purchase mapping or other intelligence software, attempt to put it to immediately use, and then disagree with the output they receive. The common theme I often find when reviewing their data sets in these scenarios falls under the age-old category of old garbage in, garbage out.

So if you fall into the category I just described, you are by far not alone. As a matter of fact, I would venture to say that you are in the majority. I even made the same mistakes when I began our Intelligence-Led Policing initiative. I remember I was so excited to get going with CommandCentral that I never bothered to really analyze the data that I was putting into the system. After all, I had been using our records management system for 20 years, surely the data was correct – right? What I found was a resounding NO. It was not good data. Now don’t get me wrong, the basics of the data were correct – the type of crime, suspect, victim, things like that were solid. What was not so correct, however, was our mapping data and how our crime types translated into CommandCentral. Let’s camp out on those two topics and discuss a couple of things that you can do to turn your bad data into good data.

First 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 data entry mistake.  Although I could not change these map points in my records management system, I could change them in CommandCentral. With just a few steps I was 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.

Allow me to explain the process; in CommandCentral, you are able to look at one or all of your zones or beats using the “Area” tab.  Within the Area tab, there is a sub-tab called “Outside Area.” Here you can see all of your calls that populated outside of your agency’s physical boundary zones.  And since the system allows you to manage the details of each incident coming from your RMS, you can simply pull up the incident on a map, and with click and drag functionality, pull the the incident point to the appropriate geographical location. This process, which you will become very proficient at, will allow you to present your maps without excuses and mistakes.

Accurate Crime Types Make A BIG Difference

Now that we have fixed your mapping problem, let’s talk about making sure your crime types are in the proper categories in order for you to get the proper intel. Depending upon country, state, or locality, crime terms can vary widely. For instance in my state, we don’t use the term larceny, we use theft instead. We also don’t use the term embezzlement, but rather we use a variety of codes under fraud. While our records management systems seem to “do it all,” it is our duty to make sure that our information is laid out correctly with in our systems. In CommandCentral, there is a crime tab for “other;” this tab is used for information in a records management system that might not fit into a typical crime category. While this can be a useful tab, I more often than not observe other agencies use this for crimes such as robbery, shooting, and thefts, in the “other” category. Simply put, if the data is in the wrong category when you run a report on a specific crime type, you will be mis-reporting and presenting inaccurate information in your final report. Most importantly, you won’t be able to deliver an intelligence product that allows your command staff to make actionable decions in confidence.

This year let’s make sure to strengthen our intelligence by cleaning up our bad data. As always, if you have any specific questions or comments, or if you need deeper instruction on how to clean up your data sets, don’t hesitate to contact me at daniel.seals@publicengines.com.

BYOD: Cutting Costs and Boosting Efficiency for the Cash-strapped Agency

So your agency is a bit strapped for cash. Sadly, its not surprising given the Great Recession’s far reaching impact on the operating budgets of law enforcement agencies across the nation.  In fact, IACP’s  2011 study showed that 1/3 of agencies surveyed  nation-wide expected budget reductions in 2012. Just this week, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck announced that his department would lose 500 officers without a $200 million tax increase to fill the department’s budget gap.  It seems agencies everywhere are challenged to do more with shrinking resources but for most communities taking cops off the street to cut costs [is a last resort]. So where else can you find cost savings?

Technology as a Force Multiplier

As cash-strapped communities are looking for ways to cut spending while keeping more officers on the streets, many agencies are cutting back on costly tech budgets while others are shifting their operational models to use technology systems that improve efficiency and cut costs. Take for example San Francisco PD, who recently developed a mobile application that enables officers to  file reports when out on patrol. Designed for use on smartphones, the new application eliminates the need to run back to the office to deal with paperwork which enables officers to stay on the streets up to 4 additional hours per day.

BYOD-Bring Your Own Device 

Unfortunately for the San Francisco PD, they can’t afford the $1.5 million necessary to put smartphones into the hands of every officer. Chances are your agency can’t afford to buy the department that needed batch of tablets, smart phones or other necessary mobile devices either. But why should [the agency] dish out, if those devices are already in the hands of the workforce? Today there are more iPhones are sold per day than babies born in the world; as mobile devices proliferate in the hands of consumers, corporations and government agencies alike are adopting policies that let employees use their personal mobile devices for and at work. In fact, according to a March 2012 GovTech study 40% of state and local IT government professionals say their agencies already have some sort of BYOD policy.

Cutting Costs and Boosting Efficiency

While there are many reasons an agency might consider implementing a BYOD policy, cost savings is chief. According to a May 2012 Cisco Business Solutions study of 600 U.S. IT professionals, savings based on reduction of IT costs and increased productivity ranges from $300 to $1300 annually per employee. So how are government agencies using BYOD to cut costs and boost efficiency?

  • Device Purchase and Maintenance: By letting the force use their own smartphones and tablet devices, IT doesn’t have to purchase as many (if any) smartphone/mobile devices. Additionally, BYOD reduces (if not eliminates) the time and resources necessary for maintaining a fleet of devices (software upgrades, hardware fixes) as the responsibility for device procurement and maintenance falls to employees who own their devices. 
  • Device Training: Specialized hardware and software can be a pain to get the force to adopt en masse. But, BYOD can enable employees to utilize the everyday devices that they are already comfortable using, eliminating the need for employee downtime for device training.
  • Phone/Data Plan Savings: Faced with a 15% IT budget reduction 2011, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission decided they were paying too much for employee mobile phone service, noting that many users weren’t even using their company phones, preferring their own devices.  Implementing a BYOD policy gave employees access to agency email, calendars, contacts and tasks on their phones, monitored their data/phone minutes using mobile device management software and reimbursed them for work use. The result: the agency’s cost for phone service was slashed in half.
  • More Efficient Time in the Field: BYOD and the development of specialized applications (like San Francisco PD’s app to file reports on smartphones) can result in officers spending more time on the streets and less time in the office. BYOD gives police increased access to resources and communication when in the field, additionally giving mounted officers, cops on bikes and others mobile access they could only achieve previously by lugging around clunky ruggedized laptops.

Ready or not, BYOD is coming. Heck, it may have already arrived.

As more and more consumers get smartphones and tablets, its likely BYOD is already happening at your agency whether sanctioned or not; perhaps a detective uses his personal smartphone to check work email or maybe a crime analyst checks documents or pulls up crimereports.com on her iPad. Since people’s attachment to their mobile devices doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon, BYOD is most certainly on its way if not already here to stay. Our advice: Don’t fight it. Leverage it. Save some dough to keep more cops on the street, and more streets safe.

Already Doing This?

Let us know how its working for you, what cost savings you’ve found, and what other hitherto tips and insights that can help fellow agencies successfully implement BYOD. Use the comments section below to share your best practices.

 

 

Crime Data – What to Do With Your Data and How to Share it

This is part four in a multi-part series on Intelligence-Led Policing

Crime Maps, Charts, Graphs – Oh My 

So you have all this data, now what to do with it. This is your next stumbling block along the road to true Intelligence-Led Policing. Many agencies make the mistake of thinking data itself is intelligence, this is simply not the case. Truly, very little is further from the truth when it comes to Intelligence-Led Policing. Data is the brick and mortar upon which intelligence is built, but like lone bricks, without being put together properly, it will not support anything.
So, how do you put all of your newly found data together so that it can work for you and your staff?

There are a number of ways to present your data; the best rule of thumb for this is to know your staff. How does your staff best understand data, maps, charts, graphs, etc.? Most cops are visual learners, so if you are unsure of the answer to the previous question, maps are a great place to start. So let’s use maps as our example. Cops know their beats; start with a map showing the crime in each beat/zone for the last month. But don’t stop there, do the same map for the last three months for comparison and the same months last year. When you have created these maps, it will be clear that your jurisdiction has crime patterns. Don’t keep the maps for yourself, distribute them to your staff and teach them how to recognize the normal patterns from the abnormal.

Beat Comparison Charts,  crime maps, graphs and any other way you choose to distribute your intelligence can be intimidating to your staff. Keep in mind, they may have never seen information presented to them in this way and moreover they have never been expected to fully embrace something so new and so foreign in a quick manner. I have found that using staff meetings to first teach your command staff how to understand this new approach, is the best way to introduce them. If you can wow them, they will spread the word to the rest of the staff.

So, how to wow them……show them the crime patterns we spoke of earlier, show them that the crime in your jurisdiction is predictable from year to year and therefore, month to month. I did just this in one of my very first staff meetings. I presented a graph that showed that our part one crimes for the last three years were predictable within a variable of 25 to 30 crimes, some within 5 to 10 crimes. You want an attention getter, that’s an attention getter! Within 15 minutes of the conclusion of the staff meeting, I had front line officers at my office door asking about my “crystal ball.”