Friday, December 30, 2011

The Year's Top Trends in Crime Analysis

This is the last post for 2011 here on the blog. I think it’s worth taking a little time to look back at a few of the things I think are the most important crime analysis / policing topics of the year.

Predictive Policing
Predictive policing uses computer statistical algorithms to predict areas where certain types of crimes are more likely to occur. This works best for property crimes such as burglaries and larcenies. Given that these types of crimes make up the bulk of crimes reported to police their reduction could lead to significant crime reductions.

This technology holds a lot of promise because it will help law enforcement agencies focus proactive efforts in areas where it will have the greatest effect. With the nation’s poor economy, most agencies are having to “do more with less”. Predictive policing could lead to a more efficient policing strategy. If officers are more effective and drive property crimes down, they will then have more discretionary time to devote to other proactive enforcement efforts which in turn could lead to further crime reductions.

Falling Crime Rates
There have been a number of news stories out this year, and even this week about the fall in crime rates as reported by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) program. Quite a number of the stories have speculated as to the “why” of this trend.

My opinion is that widespread adoption of data driven strategies by law enforcement has played a role in reducing crime. Nearly every law enforcement agency regardless of size has adopted one of these strategies whether it be called COMPSTAT, DDACTS, POP, or any of the other myriad of acronyms for them.

Regardless of what you call your program, the important thing is that they are data driven so that an agency can focus their limited resources where they will have the greatest effect. You are seeing more agencies include a crime analysis function in their operations to help analyze the data. This is a really good thing.

As researchers and criminologists spend more time looking at the “why” behind the falling crime rates we might see more of a consensus about what works. Then, whatever that turns out to be, we need to do more of it.

Social Media
We’ve seen a widespread adoption of social media by law enforcement agencies. While this trend didn’t start in 2011, it surely accelerated. In my county alone we’ve got agencies from a small four man department to the largest agency in the county with a Facebook and/or Twitter presence.

Given the huge numbers of folks on these social media sites, it’s important for law enforcement agencies to have a presence on them as well. If your agency is going to interact with the citizens you serve, you have to go where those citizens are.

What do you think the most important crime analysis or law enforcement topics were for the year?


  1. Data management and data integrity are constant issues, but they seem to have been topical in 2011. We had the FBI rape reclassification announcements; New York City continued to take a beating for under-reporting and misclassification; a detective in Florida got fired for falsifying figures; the Phoenix police chief left in the midst of a problem involving kidnapping statistics.

    A colleague just today wrote that, "Here wee are in 2012, and we continue to deal with agency after agency that have the police station and hospital as top crime locations." I think this year really drove home some of those data quality problems.

  2. You're right, your stats are only as good as the data they are derived from. Either that or maybe your police station is located in a really bad area...


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