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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.

Debunking The Myths of Intelligence-Led Policing

During my many conversations with law enforcement executives, I am asked “isn’t Intelligence-Led Policing just for large agencies?” This is perhaps the largest misconception surrounding Intelligence Led Policing. In fact, there’s a few myths that feed the idea that ILP isn’t for every agency. So much so, that I’d compelled to put finger to keyboard to shed some light on the truth. Here’s some the top myths that persists in the market today.

Myth #1. Intelligence-Led Policing has roots in concepts from the FBI and other national level agencies, and well, the federal system is nothing like ours.
There is a long held belief, and generally rooted in truth, that national law enforcement agencies and local law enforcement agencies do not play well with each other. Along with that belief, and not holding with the truth, is that federal and local agencies do not deal with the same problems. We do deal with the same problems, just with larger or smaller quantities.

9/11 taught us that the communication break down between federal and local agencies caused a security risk that not only affected certain areas; it affected the nation as a whole. In the same way, we need to think of our agencies not solely in respect to their size, but as a part of a larger whole. The better each agency understands their crime and the patterns around those crimes, they are then able to share that information with neighboring agencies and thus work together to attack the bigger crime pattern in their geographic area.

Myth #2. “We are a small city, we know our crimes. We don’t need some new way of policing to tell us what is going on in our city.”
This is a very commonly held belief among smaller rural agencies. We all know that good cops with some years under their belt have a great sense of what is going on in their city. These are the folks that the rookies can rely upon to give them the best start on understanding crime in their city. I have found that within each department there are a number of these veteran cops with this type of good information and sense about their city.

However, I have also found that each of these cops have expertise and specific knowledge in different areas and very rarely do they come together to put this information in one location that everyone can access. I encourage the command staff of these agencies to choose one of these veteran officers as their Intelligence Officer, train them in Intel and give them what they need to gather that information and utilize it to better the department. I tell these agencies that they are already embracing the idea of intelligence led policing, now put it to work.

Myth #3. “Intelligence-Led Policing is an expensive money drain that takes a good officer off the street and wastes their efforts.”
Many administrators believe that creating an Intelligence-Led Policing division takes expensive software, extensive training, and the “loss” of a good officer. They see super large agencies with expansive computers systems and large groups of Intel Analysts and believe that this is the only way to accomplish Intelligence-Led Policing.

Not True! The size of your intelligence unit should reflect the size of your department. A very effective intelligence unit can consist of one officer if that is along the lines of the size of the department. Likewise, the software used to assist with the intelligence unit can be relatively inexpensive. The key is to find software addresses the needs of your agency and is easy to use. A cost-effective and smart solution utilizes the scalable and readily available infrastructure available to in a cloud-based setup.

A cloud-based platform allows an agency the flexibility of having a large, powerful data resource without the cost of owning their own servers, maintenance that comes with that, or the IT resource required to manage it all.

Intelligence-Led Policing isn’t about over-priced, uber-tech gadgets. It’s about utilizing the data that you’ve accumulated over decades of policing your citizenry to harvest actionable intelligence that ultimately allows you to make decisions that keep your community safer. Don’t let the myths remain. Debunk them by exploring tools that allow you to take your intelligence efforts to the next level.

“Why Intelligence-Led Policing? The Answer”

This is part two of a multi-part series on Intelligence-Led Policing written by Detective Daniel Seals of the Covington, GA Police Department. Stay tuned each Thursday for a new entry.

Why Intelligence-Led Policing 

Well, because you are probably already doing it and just don’t realize it. Ask any of your veteran officers, “where are our highest crime areas?”or “who do we deal with the most?” They’ll all have answers for you, and they’ll all sound pretty similar. This is what Intelligence-Led Policing is all about though — taking the information you already have and doing something useful with it. That last part is usually the gap in most departments; doing something with it. Officers have actionable intelligence, but rarely do they put it to use or share it with other officers and command staff. There is for a multitude of reasons. For instance, officers are told; “stay in your zone/beat”, “drive around and make sure the public sees you”, “don’t get in to anything so you can answer your calls.” These are all generally good tenants of policing, but they don’t allow for an intelligence-led, focused way of policing.

Focus on High Crime Areas

If you know where your crime is generally and where it isn’t generally, then why not focus your patrols in the areas where crime is? This sounds pretty obvious, but all too often policing turns into a game of, “drive around and see if you find something while answering calls in between.” This is akin to the “spray and pray” method of firearms, where you fire your weapon multiple times in multiple directions with the assumption that you will surely hit something. We would never teach our officers to do this. We teach them to be precise and exacting on the firearms range. How about using the same precision and exacting nature in the rest of their job? Why not go to where you know the crime is and hang out there until you get a call? I guarantee your mere increased presence in these high crime areas will at the very least disrupt the criminal element in these areas. By no means am I suggesting a neglect of the other areas of your city or township, but rather a focus on the higher crime areas. This is, of course, a very elementary break down of Intelligence-Led Policing — it’s also an illustration of a starting point.

Extract Individual Information and Compile it Holistically 

Intelligence-Led Policing starts with taking all of the information your officers already have, coupling it with other local, state, and federal intelligence, adding it to the crime data you have compiled in you records, and finally, mixing it together to create an intelligence product that your entire department can use. Again, this is not far from what you are doing now, it’s just a more structured way of putting it all together and most importantly getting it out to your officers so they can use it every day, all day.

Between now and my next entry, I encourage you to make a list of all the different information sources that you currently have access to. Because in my next blog, I will describe how to compile this information, make it accessible, and actually get your officers to “buy in” to this new way of policing.

PublicEngines Named to Inc. 500 List of Fastest-Growing Private U.S. Companies.

Rapid Growth Attributed to Innovative Law Enforcement Technology  

We are really excited to announce that PublicEngines has been recognized by Inc. magazine as one of the fastest growing private companies in the U.S. with reported growth of more than 1,247 percent! We’re blown away by the revolution that has taken place within the 5 years since the launch CrimeReports.com. In all, more than 2,500 law enforcement agencies, school districts, and nonprofit organizations worldwide have adopted at least one of our platforms. Astonishing.

The Inc. 500 list ranked PublicEngines as the fourth fastest growing company in the security category and 297th fastest growing private company in the country.

We’d like to congratulate all of our customers. You believed in us to deliver what you needed even when we were a whole lot smaller and totally unproven. In complete honesty, you deserve more recognition then I’m sure you get for your desire to be more open and communicative with the people you serve and willingness to adopt new technologies that help accomplish those goals. You took a big risk. Thank You.

William Kilmer, CEO of PublicEngines, notes  “Moving forward, law enforcement agencies can expect PublicEngines to deliver a robust set of solutions with new capabilities that will continue making their jobs easier and their communities safer.”

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First Time Visiting? Here’s a brief introduction to what we do

PublicEngines’ products include CrimeReports.com, the industry’s most popular online crime mapping and engagement solution as well as the free CrimeReports mobile app for iPhones, used by law enforcement agencies to publish crime data and increase public information flow and interaction; CommandCentral, the leading cloud-based crime intelligence and data visualization tool, providing law enforcement agencies with insightful analytics used to solve and prevent crime; And TipSoft, the industry’s most widely-adopted tip information and workflow management platform developed for gathering anonymous tips from the public and disseminating alerts.

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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