Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Make Your Data Meaningful

The Champaign, Illinois news outlet The News Gazette has a story about long time Champaign Police crime analyst Gary Spear's retirement. Spear spent 35 years as a crime analyst and has seen a lot of changes over his career. In the story, Spear had a comment I thought was worth noting.

Is there a risk that there's too much data?

"Not in my opinion," he said. "I'm of the opinion that you can't have too much information. The challenge is to decipher that information" and make it meaningful before sending it to the officers, he said.

Spear "helped tie different pieces of information together that would make sense, so officers know who to go after and what areas to patrol with more resources," said Troy Daniels, a deputy police chief in Champaign.

That really is the crux of crime analysis: to take data, analyze it so then becomes information and to communicate it so that it becomes knowledge that your officers can use to make the community safer.

This is also one are that we have to be careful with, ensuring that the information we are providing is meaningful. Before we distribute an analytical product to our officers, we need to ask ourselves; Is this meaningful? Is it easy to understand? Is it actionable? If not, what do we need to change to make it so?

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