Monday, January 31, 2011

Will Officer Safety Be Cut Along With The Budget?

I'm not going to comment on the wisdom of letting a female prison guard work alone in a male prison. However, this story about the murder of a Washington state prison guard by an inmate has another angle that concerns me in our troubling fiscal climate; that of budget cuts causing officer safety issues. From the story over at the Associated Press:
Biendl joined the Corrections Department in 2002. Teamsters 117 spokeswoman Tracey Thompson said Sunday that the officer had complained to her union shop steward and prison supervisors about being the sole guard working in the chapel. She worried about being there alone without anyone checking on her, Thompson said.

Recent budget cuts have forced staffing reductions and union members have been worried about the impact of those reductions on safety, Thompson said.

"We have been pushing so hard on safety issues," Thompson said. "It makes me crazy that it took someone getting murdered inside a prison while doing their job for there to be attention on this work and how difficult and dangerous it can be."

Lewis insisted that Biendl's death was not a result of budget cuts in recent years. "The staffing model has been the same for years," he said, adding that the reality is that officers often work by themselves.
Here in Texas the state's fiscal crisis is coming to a head as the state legislature prepares the budget. We've seen talk of the state prison system cutting staff while keeping the same number of prisons. Let's hope those chopping money from the budget are mindful of the officer safety implications of their cuts. I'm not saying that money doesn't need to be cut, I understand the state's fiscal crisis. However, those cuts should be made with care to ensure that they don't cut officer safety too.

For some good coverage of the state's budget process and how it might affect prisons, keep an eye on Scott Henson's blog Grits For Breakfast.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Crime Analysis As A Creative Profession

If you were to be asked what is a creative profession you would probably reply that artists, authors or musicians are members of this creative class. I also bet that if I were to tell you that crime analysts are also creators you'd probably think that I was in dire need of a vacation.

The reality though is that creators are a much broader class than what we might initially think of when we are asked that question. Leo Babauta, author of the book Focus said of creators:
"And this includes a much larger group than the traditional “creative types” — artists, writers, photographers, designers, musicians and the like. No, people who create are a much larger group than that, though creative types are included. ... In short, it includes most of us, in one way or another."
Crime analysts are indeed creators, we research and analyze crime problems and then write reports documenting our analysis. Then we create possible solutions to these problems while often having to "think outside the box" to attack these problems in a new way because the old way of doing things is no longer working.

Lately, I have been reading Leo's excellent book Focus and thinking about his suggestions for improving focus and my ability to create. In my busy crime analysis office, focus is sometimes hard to come by. Between the phone ringing, email notifications popping up and people walking into my office all wanting something, focus suffers significantly.

This is a problem because as Leo puts it:
"Focus is crucial to those of us who create, because creating is so difficult without it."
Over the next few weeks I'm going post an occasional bit of stuff I've learned from Leo's book. I do encourage you to get a copy and read the whole thing yourself. Leo even offers a free web and a PDF version you can read gratis.

I once was told that the thing that differentiates a job from a profession is that a professional is always trying to improve themselves and their ability to perform their job. Crime analysis is indeed a profession and we should always try to improve our ability to create.

What have you been doing to improve yourself lately?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

It's Not A Catapult, It's a Drug Launching Trebuchet

The Tucson Sentinal posted a video this morning of crooks on the Mexican border trying to set up a drug launching trebuchet to launch bundles of drugs across the border into the US.

Never underestimate the ingenuity of a dedicated crook.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

See Where It's Red? Go Be Where It's Red

I have detected a trend and also predict that this trend will continue. The trend involves in the number of stories making the press about predictive policing. I posted yesterday about an article on this over at, I also posted a story about Santa Cruz, CA Police's effort on this last week. This morning, there was another story over at the Minneapolis Star Tribune about the effort to implement this at Minneapolis PD.
Frizell said he knows the color-coded maps issued by the Crime Analysis Unit are taken seriously by his patrol officers because he sees them taking notes off of fresh maps hung in the precinct.
It's easier than handing an officer a stack of the latest intelligence, said Lt. Jeff Rugel, who runs the Gang Enforcement Team out of the department's new strategic information center. "A commander issuing orders can say, 'See where it's red? Go be where it's red,' " Rugel said. "It makes it very easy to see what's going on as opposed to charts and charts of data."
This brings up an interesting point, and not necessarily about predictive policing, but about our analytical products in general. Are we as crime analysts making the results of our analysis accessible to our rank and file officers? Do we create analytical products they can easily understand?

I don't say this to demean the officers. It has been my experience that they are motivated, intelligent and professional in their jobs. However, they aren't crime analysts. We should always work towards creating analytical products that can be as easily understood and used as  "See where it's red? Go be where it's red."

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

More On Predictive Policing

Last week I posted a short bit about Santa Cruz, CA Police and their experiment with predictive policing. Yesterday Chris Beam over at Slate posted this longer piece about predictive policing.
Predictive policing is based on the idea that some crime is random—but a lot isn't. For example, home burglaries are relatively predictable. When a house gets robbed, the likelihood of that house or houses near it getting robbed again spikes in the following days. Most people expect the exact opposite, figuring that if lightning strike once, it won't strike again. "This type of lightning does strike more than once," says Brantingham. Other crimes, like murder or rape, are harder to predict. They're more rare, for one thing, and the crime scene isn't always stationary, like a house. But they do tend to follow the same general pattern. If one gang member shoots another, for example, the likelihood of reprisal goes up.
I really think this approach holds some promise. But, I'm not so optimistic to think that it's a magic bullet for all types of crimes. Chris's piece quotes experts as saying that it likely holds the most promise for property crimes such as burglaries and probably won't work for some crimes like murder.

This makes sense for a couple of reasons. One, the number of burglaries dwarfs the numbers of murders in every jurisdiction. Statistical techniques that forecast future events or trends work better when you have a larger dataset to work with. I wouldn't be surprised if the interpersonal dynamics behind a crime such as a murder add additional variables that make such predictions for some types of crimes less accurate.

Even so, if predictive policing shows to work only with crimes such as burglary the results could be huge. Since most crimes in a community are property crimes such as burglary, a success with predictive policing could have a huge effect on a city's crime numbers.

I know the officers in my sleepy little burg would love to be told something like "there's a significant chance that there will be a burglary in this neighborhood between these times over the next X number of days". That is real actionable intelligence that could be used to alter patrol staffing decisions.

This will be interesting to watch. I just hope that the funding for LAPD's proposed study survives attempts to hack and slash government budgets.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Step 60 - Contribute To The Store Of Knowledge

This is the final post in our collective walk through the book Crime Analysis For Problem Solvers. In this post, we're going to look at Step 60 - Contribute to the store of knowledge.

With the advent of the Internet the store of knowledge for crime analysis is much more accessible than it's ever been. Now, it's possible for a police officer in a small one or two man department to access the same publications that were once only available to academics or crime analysts from large departments that could afford to send them to professional conferences. This is a great thing.

However, for this store of knowledge to remain relevant, it's important that it continue to grow and evolve as policing does. As we develop new solutions to crime problems, we need to ensure that these are communicated not only to our agency, but to others so that they can learn from our experience or expand on what we have done.

The authors discuss a number of ways we can to this, through websites, conferences or via networks of crime analysts and professional newsletters or journals. They also include a pretty good outline that will help to effectively communicate your findings and increase this store of knowledge. The basic outline goes like this:

  1. Dissatisfaction with the old situation - why the standard understanding or practice is insufficient in particular circumstances.
  2. Search for alternatives - how a new understanding or practice was discovered.
  3. Evidence supporting alternatives - comparison of old and new approaches.
  4. Conclusions and implications - summary of what people should consider, given this new information.

Another added benefit of putting this down into words is that we tend to learn more when we put it down into words. In fact, my covering the book Crime Analysis For Problem Solvers here on the blog started because I wanted to learn the material contained in the book better than I would have by just reading it.

What are you doing to contribute to the store of knowledge?

Friday, January 21, 2011

The New Law Enforcement Reality: Do Less Better

There have been a couple of stories out lately that are pointing towards a new fiscal reality for law enforcement. First, this piece by Chris Beam over at looks at the city of Camden, New Jersey laying off half the cops in their police department due to their extreme fiscal woes. He also looks at Newark which also recently had to make somewhat less drastic cuts. From the piece:
Camden may be the most drastic example of police cutbacks in recent memory. But it likely won't be the last. "Given the national financial situation at state and local levels, we may see more of these," says Samuel Walker, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Which raises the question: What can cities like Camden, a drug-trafficking mecca billed as the second most dangerous city in America, do when faced with cuts? Is it possible for police departments to "do more with less"?
The short answer is no, says McCarthy. "I'm tired of hearing that catchphrase," he says. What they can do, though, is do less better. 
The other story that points to where we are going is this one from Scott Henson over at the blog Grits For Breakfast where he outlines proposed cuts in the upcoming Texas state budget that looks at lopping big chunks out of the budget for corrections and community supervision (parole & probation). Scott goes over the proposal and outlines it in all it's gory details.

What's probably also going to become a reality is things police departments have come to enjoy, and in some cases even rely on, state and federal grants, are likely going to dry up. Like the folks up in New Jersey, we may not be able to do more with less, but we do have to learn to do less better.

I think crime analysis holds the key to doing less better. It is much more efficient to focus your enforcement efforts on the crime problems that are going to have the biggest payoffs as opposed to the old, reactive way of doing things. As crime analysts, we also need to adjust to the new fiscal realities and get used to having less money available for things like new whiz-bang software packages and brush up on our skills at making our own tools, or adapting existing tools to help us make our departments more efficient.

What are you doing to help your organization do less better?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

'Ether Man' Rapist Linked To Austin Rape

We're seeing more and more serial rapes over wide areas linked by DNA evidence. A case in point is this one over at the Austin American Statesman:
Bruce was linked to the May 2006 sexual assault of a University of Texas student at a residence on 55½ Street through DNA evidence, Austin police said in 2009. The victim lost consciousness after her assailant held a chemical-soaked rag against her face.
Bruce, who officials have linked to similar assaults in New Mexico and Texas, was formally charged in Travis County on Wednesday, the affidavits said. He is being jailed in Pueblo County, Colo., on several other charges, with bail set at $3.8 million bail, according the county's jail records.
Nicknamed the "Ether Man," Bruce has been linked to more than 15 rape cases that date back to 1991, police have said.
Now that more and more agencies are submitting to national DNA databases such as CODIS, it's getting easier to link cases together that occur in different, far flung jurisdictions. It wasn't that many years ago that cases like this would never have gotten linked together. The FBI's CODIS program is a great tool for law enforcement to link these cases. Now, if we can just deal with the backlog of rape kits and other forensic evidence we might find more rapists like this guy.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Predictive Policing Hits The Streets In Santa Cruz

This is interesting: It seems that police in Santa Cruz, CA are testing out a new predictive policing model developed by a mathematics professor at Santa Clara University. From the piece over at
Police recently submitted eight years of crime reports to an applied mathematics professor at Santa Clara University, and he is mapping the time, location and recurrence of crimes to help police predict crime and tailor their patrols. It's an emerging, national movement called "predictive policing."
"I think the more you put police in areas where there is more crime, the more efficiently you're policing the city," said George Mohler, the Santa Clara University professor doing the research.
Mohler said the goal is not to arrest more people, but rather to have an officer patrolling a neighborhood so that a car burglary, for example, doesn't happen in the first place.
Zach Friend, a crime analyst for the Santa Cruz Police Department, said he approached Mohler about the project after reading news reports about predictive policing in the fall.
..."The overall model is based on the belief that crime is not random. So with enough data points, you could predict where and when it will happen," Friend said.
A couple of things struck me about this story. One, that Santa Cruz PD's analyst took the initiative to contact the professor after reading about this. Someone has to take the risk to turn a theory into an real policing strategy. Kudos to Zach Friend for thinking outside the box on this.

The other thing that about this I like is that should this approach prove to be effective, it would dovetail nicely with other statistical and data mining techniques of police data to make agencies more efficient. In other words you could use a software package to make recommendations about police deployment that would likely make your agency more efficient at fighting crime. This will be interesting to follow.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Step 59 - Become An Effective Presenter

We've almost completed our journey through the book Crime Analysis For Problem Solvers. In this post, we're going to look at Step 59 - Become an effective presenter. Just like nearly everything else in life, giving an effective presentation is something that is learned. You can just get up and "wing it" and expect to be effective.

Giving an effective presentation is really important. We can do great analysis and come up with a novel and potentially effective problem solving solution, but if all this is lost in a poorly executed presentation what good is it?

The authors have some tips on effective presentation techniques. They include things like:

  • Thoroughly prepare.
  • Understand the venue where you will give your presentation. Learn what tools are available and how to use them. Modern presentation equipment can be complex and failure-prone.
  • At minimum, make sure your audience does not have to work to overcome your style to understand your presentation.
  • PowerPoint and other similar presentation software allow the audience to receive the information simultaneously in two modes: visually and aurally. However, there are dangers and limitations to using presentation software. Know what they are and how to avoid it.
  • Assume things will go wrong! Have a backup plan for when they do.

The entire chapter has a laundry list of things like these and more that will help you to make an effective presentation. I encourage you to read the chapter for yourself. In fact, it might even make a great checklist to go over prior to giving your presentation.

The next step we cover will be our last in this series. We'll cover Step 60 - Contribute to the store of knowledge.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Riding A Horse Drunk Results in DWI Arrest

Only in Texas.

Austin Police recently arrested two men after they were observed riding a horse and a mule in Austin's 6th Street entertainment district downtown. The story in the Austin American Statesman had this:
According to an arrest affidavit, an officer saw Rios riding the mule near East Sixth Street and San Jacinto Boulevard. Officers smelled alcohol, then summoned members of the department's DWI team, which has special training in arresting drunken drivers.

An affidavit said that Rios had bloodshot eyes and was swaying, staggering and stumbling, and that he told officers he'd had "two vodka and cranberry drinks."

The document also laid out state laws for drunken driving, saying that a mule fit the legal standard for a "motor vehicle" — "a device in, on or by which a person or property is, or may be, transported or drawn on a highway."
I don't know what it is about this week, but it's one weird crime story after another.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Not Your Everyday Bank Robbery

I remember hearing about this crime back when it occurred: Back in 2003 a Pennsylvania pizza delivery man walked into a bank with a time bomb locked to his neck and robbed the bank. Unfortunately for him, he was caught shortly after the robbery and would die waiting for the bomb squad to arrive. I knew it was a bit bizarre then, after reading this story about it over at, it's even more bizarre than it appeared at first hearing. From the story:
Wells told the troopers that while out on a delivery he had been accosted by a group of black men who chained the bomb around his neck at gunpoint and forced him to rob the bank. “It’s gonna go off!” he told them in desperation. “I’m not lying.” The officers called the bomb squad and took positions behind their cars, guns drawn. TV camera crews arrived and began filming. For 25 minutes Wells remained seated on the pavement, his legs curled beneath him.

“Did you call my boss?” Wells asked a trooper at one point, apparently concerned that his employer would think he was shirking his duties. Suddenly, the device started to emit an accelerating beeping noise. Wells fidgeted. It looked like he was trying to scoot backward, to somehow escape the bomb strapped to his neck. Beep… Beep… Beep. Boom! The device detonated, blasting him violently onto his back and ripping a 5-inch gash in his chest. The pizza deliveryman took a few last gasps and died on the pavement. It was 3:18 pm. The bomb squad arrived three minutes later.

The whole piece is a great read. I'm just glad that most of the crooks around the sleepy little burg where I work are more likely to commit something like this.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

If You Lie To The Police Don't Be Surprised If It Makes Things Worse

From the just deserts department: A Dallas area man who was arrested and lied about his identity should have picked a better alias. Unfortunately, he used his cousin's name and it turns out the cousin had a warrant for molesting a child. The man spent 13 months in jail and is now trying to sue Dallas County for wrongfully incarcerating him under his cousin's name according to this story over at The Dallas Morning News.
Because Miramontes had used his cousin's name before to escape legal troubles, the two men were inextricably linked in Dallas County criminal justice computers, which listed Ayala as an alias for Miramontes. They were believed to be the same person.

Jail staff could not immediately detect the mix-up because they didn't have Ayala's fingerprints. Ayala had a clean record at the time.
This quote from the hapless crook is telling:
"I was arrested because the police thought I was my cousin," he said in the letter. "I have nothing to hide and am willing to participate in any DNA testing or ID check that would resolve this matter."
I wonder how the police got that idea? I also wonder if he's suing himself for creating this mess in the first place?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Twilight Rapist Arrested

Central Texas has been plagued for months by a serial rapist who had been targeting elderly women in rural areas. He had been breaking into their homes at night and sexually assaulting them. Police got a break when police in the small town of Edna arrested a Texas prison system employee fleeing an elderly woman's home during a night time burglary. From the story over at the Killeen Daily Herald:

Police in Edna — a Jackson County city of about 5,800 people 140 miles east of San Antonio — arrested Billy Joe Harris, 53, who has been linked to at least 12 rapes in rural areas in Central and South Texas, including at least two victims in Bell County.

Police believe Harris committed several rapes of elderly women over a period of two years. The ages of victims range from 59 to 92, according to Lt. Frank Malinak, the Texas Ranger who led a multi-jurisdictional task force investigating the crimes.

Rangers linked Harris to five rapes by obtaining his DNA, according to a news release from the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Harris is suspected of committing a rape in Moody, near Temple, in February 2010. Bell County Sheriff Dan Smith said Monday Harris may be responsible for a second rape in Bell County.

There is also this bit over at where they touch on obtaining DNA evidence from the suspect:
After the arrest, a Texas Ranger boarded a DPS plane to fly to Jackson County where he served a search warrant and collected the DNA sample.

Then the plane returned to Waco where DPS crime lab personnel worked through the night and established that the DNA linked Harris to five of the attacks in Yoakum and Bell, Falls and Leon Counties.

Investigators spent the weekend gathering other evidence that further links Harris to the attacks, authorities said.

There's also an article over at the Houston Chronicle that outlined that the suspect had a home healthcare business, formerly lived in Copperas Cove and had property stolen from the victim's in his home.

Great job by Edna PD and all those other agencies that have been working on this for all these months. There are a lot of little old ladies that will sleep much sounder tonight.

Monday, January 10, 2011

This Is A Stickup, Hand Over Your Electronic Balance Transfer Card

Chris Beam's new crime beat column over at is turning out to have some really interesting stuff on it. In this piece, Chris looks at the effect of society moving towards a cashless economy could have on street crime.
Most violent crime is the result of one person trying to take another person's cash, whether it's an addict robbing a convenience store or one dealer robbing another, says Wright. If cash isn't available to steal, the opportunities to commit crimes dwindle. At the same time, the drug trade, which relies on cash at the ground level and drives a large portion of violent crime, withers. Sure, drug dealers can still transfer funds electronically, but only at high levels. Street dealers are unlikely to use credit card swipe machines anytime soon.
There's even a quote from yours truly in the piece where I argue that criminals will always adapt their modus operandi to fit the prevailing conditions. That being said, I think it's important to look at crime from a cost/benefit ratio. If we increase the cost to the crook in relation to the benefit they reap from their crime, they will often abandon that type of crime.

Cost for the criminal can be the effort they expend in committing the crime, the effort it takes to convert their proceeds to a tangible benefit or by increasing the cost of getting caught. An increase in any of these areas, but especially the first two can change the cost/benefit ratio to one that is unfavorable for the criminal.

Let's look at the first two for a moment. Increasing the cost (effort) to commit the crime can be things such as target hardening a building by better locks or burglar bars. This makes the criminal expend more effort to get into the targeted location or get at the desired property.

Increasing the cost to covert the proceeds to a tangible benefit could be laws that require pawn shops or second hand shops to record identifying information from those pawning or selling items thus removing a ready outlet for stolen property. The criminal then has to expend more effort in selling this property and converting this property to a tangible benefit.

The last method I mentioned, increasing the cost of getting caught is often the method most commonly proposed by increasing legal penalties for violators. It's the "get tough on crime" approach that one often hears from politicos. This may be one of the least effective ways because most criminals are not forward thinking enough to believe that they will get caught and are not thinking about the long term consequences of their actions.

In what ways are you changing the cost/benefit ratio of a crime problem from favoring the crook, to favoring the good guys?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Is It Murder On The High Seas?

This is odd: It seems that a fistfight broke out among the crew of a merchant ship and one of the combatants was later found dead. Now, officials get to figure out just who has jurisdiction if it turns out a crime was committed according to this story over at the Houston Chronicle.
Because the incident occurred on a Dutch vessel, the Netherlands likely has jurisdiction over an investigation and potential charges, said Hal Watson, a Houston attorney and secretary for the Maritime Law Association of the United States.

But Ukrainian officials could also exercise jurisdiction if the Ukrainian man being held on the ship is determined a suspect, Watson said.

An investigation would likely have to be carried out either by the United States or the Netherlands because of maritime law dealing with crimes that occur on vessels in international waters, he said.
It sounds like something out of an Agatha Christie novel.

Years ago an agency in our county found the body of a murder victim on a road that also served as the dividing line for jurisdiction between two agencies. They spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out just what part of the road was the actual boundary line. Was it the center of the road or the edge of the roadway? I'm sure detectives on both sides were hoping that it was in the other agency's jurisdiction. We joked that one of the agencies would have drug the body across the road if the other agency wasn't looking.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

There Was "A Golden Age" For Serial Killers? has started a new crime beat column in their online magazine written by Chris Beam. In his first crime beat piece, Chris looks at an apparent downward trend in serial killers over the decades. From the story:
But the number of serial murders seems to be dwindling, as does the public's fascination with them. "It does seem the golden age of serial murderers is probably past," says Harold Schechter, a professor at Queens College of the City University of New York who studies crime.
Statistics on serial murder are hard to come by—the FBI doesn't keep numbers, according to a spokeswoman—but the data we do have suggests serial murders peaked in the 1980s and have been declining ever since. James Alan Fox, a criminology professor at Northeastern University and co-author of Extreme Killing: Understanding Serial and Mass Murder, keeps a database of confirmed serial murderers starting in 1900. According to his count, based on newspaper clippings, books, and Web sources, there were only a dozen or so serial killers before 1960 in the United States. Then serial killings took off: There were 19 in the 1960s, 119 in the '70s, and 200 in the '80s. In the '90s, the number of cases dropped to 141. And the 2000s saw only 61 serial murderers. (Definitions of serial murder" vary, but Fox defines it as "a string of four or more homicides committed by one or a few perpetrators that spans a period of days, weeks, months, or even years." To avoid double-counting, he assigns killers to the decade in which they reached the midpoint of their careers.)
This downward trend is pretty interesting. What may be even harder to determine is why these types of crimes seem to be trending downward. Law enforcement does seem to be doing a better job of identifying and linking victims of serial murderers that they did in years past. Programs such as the FBI's Highway Serial Killings initiative and a renewed push to get agencies submitting data to ViCAP.

But it may be that these types of killings aren't as de rigueur as the recent rash of spree killings where a disgruntled person walks into a building and starts shooting. There isn't always a lot of original thinking where these types of killers are concerned.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

DWI And Dens Of Iniquity

This has some potential; Austin, TX has a world famous entertainment district downtown. In addition to some of the greatest live music venues in the world, they have quite a number of bars and nightclubs. The downside, is there are a number of DWI's that usually come with a busy night life. The Austin American Statesman posted a release from APD:
Austin police have released their annual ranking of bars where drunken driving suspects reported having their last drink before hitting the road.

The list is based on information suspects provided officers during their arrests.
The post goes on to list the individual bars and the numbers of suspects who said they had their last drink at these establishments prior to being arrested for DWI.

Problem Oriented Policing theory uses The Crime Triangle to help determine the likely cause of a crime problem. If we were working on a Problem Oriented Policing project to reduce DWI's, The Crime Triangle would indicate that we need to investigate the management practices of the top nightclubs on the list to see if they were contributing to the number of patrons who leave intoxicated and then drive drunk. If their practices are a potential problem, correcting these practices might significantly reduce the numbers of DWI's coming from these establishments.

In a follow up article from the Statesman, an APD Commander said this:
"It's something APD looks at very seriously," said Cmdr. Jason Dusterhoft, who supervises the department's highway enforcement division. He said police want to work more closely with establishments to better train bartenders about how to recognize intoxicated patrons.
Traditional enforcement efforts alone aren't always the best or only way to deal with a crime problem. If you can change the practices that contribute to a crime problem, you are often times more effective at reducing the problem than you would be by just arresting offenders the old fashioned way.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

PTSD And First Responders

Last week, NPR had a piece on the toll Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD takes on first responders. While the story was centered around a paramedic it's just as applicable to police officers. From the story:
Ferrara isn't alone in his experience — other rescuers and first responders have had to cope with their own post-traumatic stress. Hampton Sides, a writer for Outside magazine, covered Ferrara's case and other cases of civilian PTSD in the January issue of the magazine.

"It's only recently become apparent that PTSD is rampant among the community of first responders," Sides says. "I think that the last community that has come to recognize this has been these mountain communities — these people who essentially get to do what they love to do, and yet they come across this trauma. They see these horrible things — often people that they know."

Sides says that part of the reason for the lack of diagnosis of PTSD is the culture of the responders themselves. "There's the kind of 'he-man' quality to this," he says. "These guys don't like to recognize when they're hurting."
A good thing to come out of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is an improvement in the treatment for people who suffer PTSD. As a former police officer who is a PTSD survivor I have experienced first hand what PTSD can do. I hope that stories like this NPR piece and the upcoming one on which it's based in Outside magazine will start a dialog on just how much PTSD affects law enforcement officers and other first responders.

The Veteran's Administration has some good resources for those with PTSD and is a good place to start.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Joy Of Statistics

Now that it's the New Year, I am sure that we'll all start the crawl through our 2010 data to try and divine what those numbers are telling us about 2010. Like most crime analysts, I quite often turn to statistics to answer those questions. The science of statistics can tell us a lot about our world whether it's related to crime or any of a myriad of other areas.

The BBC had a great program on the "Joy of Statistics" narrated by Professor Hans Rosling. It's about a hour long but for a stats geek like me, well worth the time to watch it. About 8 minutes in they discuss the use of crime data to map crime problems in San Francisco.

Are you ready to use statistical tools to understand the crime problems facing your department?