Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Crime Analysis Is Not A Solo Sport

The Fort Worth Star Telegram had a piece yesterday that brings up an important topic. From the story:

A man who police suspect exposed himself to girls walking home from school on at least three occasions was in the Parker County jail on Tuesday. 
Matthew Nance, 23, of Lipan faces a charge of indecency with a child – exposure. Bond was set at $15,000, according to the Parker County jail log. 
Police said a vehicle matching a description from earlier incidents was located with the help of the crime analyst email group.

Many times we get a bit "tunnel visioned" when we don't consider that the offenders we deal with don't often respect jurisdictional boundaries. The problem offenders we deal with are likely also to be problems in neighboring jurisdictions.

Here at my agency, I keep an email distribution list of contacts at surrounding agencies so I can easily distribute our bulletins to them. Consequently, if I get a BOLO from them, I'll make sure that it gets put out to all our officers.

Have you reached out to surrounding agencies and made arrangements to distribute each other's crime bulletins? If not, why not?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Six Months In, How To Measure Santa Cruz PD's Predictive Policing Experiment?

In the past year or so, I've done quite a number of posts on predictive policing. In fact, I did so many I added a predictive policing category to help you find all the posts about it. In this category are quite a number of posts regarding Santa Cruz Police and their experiment with predictive policing.  There was a story this weekend from the Santa Cruz Sentinel about the results of SCPD's experiment six months in.
Santa Cruz police in general said the program has worked — although it's hard to measure. 
"We don't really know what (crime) we prevent," McMahon said. "We only know what we don't prevent" because the car is burglarized and there is a police report. 
McMahon said the daily Top 10 lists of potential crime locations have confirmed some officers' patrol intuitions. Police already knew that parking garages, for instance, provide a "target-rich" area for thieves. 
"It gives us a better sense of where to be," she said of the predictive patrols. "You can be a little more surgical with your time."
SCPD's approach to fully implement the program without control areas led to criticism in some circles about being able to scientifically confirm the efficacy of the experiment. But right or wrong, there is a huge interest in these types of programs.

Patrol officers want to know where they need to be to catch bad guys or at least to prevent a crime. Even if your agency doesn't have a fancy algorithm to predict crime, as a crime analyst you can probably make a pretty good guess based on your knowledge of crime in your jurisdiction.

Does your agency provide direction to officers about where they should spend discretionary time on patrol?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Don't Accuse An Agency Of Fudging Their Stats If You Don't Know The Rules

Last week, The Washington Post did a story where they accused Washington DC Police with fudging their crime stats by claiming clearances for homicides in the current year when the actual murder happened in a prior year. This weekend they issued what amounts to a mea culpa.

The article characterized the department’s reporting of homicide-closure rates as a “statistical mishmash that makes things seem much better than they are.” It also suggested that the department’s methodology produced a number that was not “a true closure rate.” As a result, the article, as well as elements of the headline and an accompanying graphic, implied that the department artificially inflated public data on the number of cases that are closed each year.

In fact, as the article reported, the department has followed practices consistent with federal crime-data guidelines and relied upon the same methodology used by other major municipal police agencies. The department hasn’t altered the ways it calculates homicide-closure rates since Cathy L. Lanier became chief in 2007, and it discloses its methodology in its annual report.

This isn't the first time and likely won't be the last where a media outlet got a story on a police agency's crime stats wrong. What Washington DC Police did was to show a murder as "cleared" or solved the year that the crime was solved and not in necessarily in the year that the homicide actually happened. Given the length of time it sometimes takes to clear a homicide case this isn't all that unusual.

The Washington Post tried to characterize this as DC Police trying to manipulate their stats to make them look better. However, this practice is consistent with the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports guidelines. At least the Post later issued a mea culpa for their goof.

Of course, these rules lead to some weird numbers. At my agency we ended up with a -1 Rape statistic one month when we had one more Rape cases Unfounded than we had reported. While that was weird, it wasn't chicanery.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Another Example Of Predictive Policing's Promise

The news outlet SanJose.com had this piece that is worth reading about the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office use of predictive policing to help reduce crime in their jurisdiction. From the piece:
“The most common time [vehicle and residential] crimes were occurring were Tuesdays and Thursdays between 5pm and 8pm,” says Damon, who works out of a sheriff’s office substation in Cupertino. “We put together hot spots and victim profiles to give officers an idea what to look for. In May of 2010, we started seeing a significant decrease. It was pretty immediate once we got our patrol units in the right place at the right time.” 
As a result, from 2010 to 2011, property crimes in the West Valley patrol area for the sheriff’s office—Cupertino, Saratoga, Los Altos and unincorporated zones that include parts of Los Gatos—dropped 23 percent, according to Damon.
Santa Clara SO's program demonstrates the potential that predictive policing has in combating property crimes.   Of course, I'm really interested in seeing the methodology used by these various programs. Some of them are pretty sophisticated. Others might be using simple statistics to calculate days between hits and the likely times of occurrence along with a hotspot map of recent crimes and a bit of analyst's intuition.

No matter how you get to it, if you can provide your officers with a place to be and some times to be there you can help them be more efficient about driving crime down in the community.

Is your agency interested in predictive policing? What would it take for you to bring this to your agency?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

How Fast Can Your Crime Analyst Analyze Crime Trends?

The Contra Costa Times had an interesting article on the Los Angeles Police Department's efforts to clean up a portion of the Devonshire Division. The area they are working on has had problems with drugs, prostitution and street crimes. The goal of their efforts is to measurably reduce crime in this area. 
The strategy also relies on quicker analysis of crime data to spot trends immediately. Officers review reports on a daily basis to spot problem areas and dispatch specialized units such as vice, narcotics and gang enforcement, rather than wait what for could be a week's lag involved in the department's normal crime analysis.
Any intelligence gathered from community tips or by detectives working on crimes is shared with all units. 
The specialized units supplement the normal patrols in the area and can be shifted to target sites of increased crime activity. 
"We try to deploy into the areas with most impact with the minimal number of officers," said Sgt. Jose Torres. "With limited resources, we want to reallocate them with specific missions so there's a higher probability of coming across a crime."
This brings up an interesting question; how fast can your agency's crime analysis unit analyze your agency's crime data? In order to be most effective, your unit has to deliver the results of your analysis fast enough for your department's decision makers to act on it. If you aren't able to get this analysis out fast enough the crime trend you are combating might have changed enough to make your efforts less effective.

What is keeping you from a quick turnaround on tactical crime analysis products? Can you remove these impediments to improve your turnaround time?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

If A Crime Happens In The Woods And Nobody Reports It, Did It Really Happen?

This is an interesting situation; the Fitchburg, MA Police Department has seen an uptick in larcenies reported to their agency. Crime numbers going up is never something a police chief wants to hear. But Fitchburg PD's crime analyst had this explanation for the reason behind the increase. From the story over at the Sentinel and Enterprise:
"It went up because of better enforcement," said Kristi Andrews, crime analyst for Fitchburg. She said a large amount of the 2011 shoplifting cases were in the Kmart store. Andrews and DeMoura said Kmart management hired a small security team to catch shoplifters, where in the past the store had no focus on shoplifting.
Of course this brings up a minor problem with better enforcement efforts; often times your efforts at reducing a crime problem by increasing enforcement efforts will cause your crime numbers to go up instead of going down.  The thing to keep in mind is that initial bump in crime numbers doesn't mean that your efforts are counterproductive. The crime was already there, you just weren't aware of it likely because it wasn't being reported.

The key is not to let your Chief panic over the increased numbers in the short term. Your initial efforts are yielding a more accurate picture of the numbers behind your crime problem. Stay the course with your efforts long enough and you will likely see those numbers go back down and if your strategy is well thought out, you will hopefully see them go down below what you though they were initially.

In fact, we aren't worried about random fluctuations or cyclical trends but are worried about our efforts having a long term change on the crime problem. Step 26 in the excellent book Crime Analysis For Problem Solvers is all about determining long term change and is worth the read.

Have you ever had an instance where your enforcement efforts led to an increase in reported crime? How did your agency explain the increase?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Wichita Police Use Crime Analysts To Spot Crime Trends Quickly

There was a story over at the Wichita Eagle this weekend that looked at how Wichita, Kansas Police are using crime analysis to help get crime information to their officers. From the piece:

For years, police used the “interwatch” system to share information between shifts. But not all crimes, such as burglaries, made it onto the interwatch reports.

Thanks to computers in patrol cars and electronic data collection and storage, he said, beat officers can now download information about cases they’re working. That information can be posted to electronic “intelligence hubs,” which officers on other shifts can check.

When officers filled out reports on paper and the files were then moved up to investigations, it might take a couple of weeks for trends to emerge. Now, Nolte said, those trends can be spotted within a few days — sometimes even sooner.

Now Wichita Police crime analysts get crime information distributed quickly which helps WPD officers focus their efforts and get on top of crime trends quickly. The technology available to police agencies has improved considerably over the 21 years I have been in law enforcement. It's now possible to spot crime trends quickly and distribute analytical products nearly instantaneously.

What is your agency doing to identify crime trends quickly? If you do identify them, how quickly are you distributing this information within your agency?

Monday, February 20, 2012

For Longmont Police Crime Analysis Important To Crime Fighting Strategy

There was a piece this weekend in the Longmont, Colorado Times Call that looked at Longmont Police's use of crime analysis to determine "high crime areas". They use these geographic areas to focus their crime fighting efforts.

"We make a concerted effort to try to make more contacts in that area," said Cmdr. Jeff Satur. Sometimes, he said, the person the officer stops is up to no good or has warrants. Other times, Satur said, the officer ends up talking to residents or business people in the area, which helps the police learn who should be in a specific area and when.

The police department does not have a hard and fast definition for a "high crime area," but rather uses it as a loose term that helps officers focus efforts based on call volumes to an area or an address.

Lee creates daily crime reports for officers to review during briefings and monthly reports that show crime data for benchmark crimes over the month, with comparisons over a three-month period or with comparisons to the same month in the previous year. The specific crimes tracked include auto theft, car break-ins, burglaries, robberies, criminal mischief and victim-offender crimes. The reports also offer other information to help officers focus efforts, like the most common day of the week a particular crime is committed.

This story is a good example of just how crime analysts are making their agencies more efficient at reducing crime in their communities. While an individual officer might have a pretty good idea what's happening in his beat area during his shift, someone should be looking at the "big picture". A crime analyst can look at crime across the entire community and during all times of the day and night to come up with a pretty good picture of what areas need more crime fighting resources.

What is your agency doing to get an understanding of the "big picture"? Is a crime analyst part of that effort?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Cambridge Police Use Crime Analysis Unit To Help Reduce Crime

The Boston Globe had a story about Cambridge, Massachusetts Police using their Crime Analysis Unit to help them direct enforcement activities. The credit this strategy with helping them to reduce crime in Cambridge.

In explaining the declines announced yesterday, Lieutenant Daniel Wagner, who heads the Cambridge Police Crime Analysis Unit, said his unit is able to identify upswings of a particular crime in a specific area or at a certain time.

For example, officers may see a spike in reported pickpocket incidents. By using data analysis, they could determine that most of the crimes occur between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. in a particular square.

Using that information, officials can decide to assign more patrol officers to head off those crimes.

“I’m optimistic that we can continue to reduce crime,’’ Wagner said. “I think that we’re at somewhat of a tipping point in terms of developing more advanced, comprehensive ways to use predictive analytics for crime mapping.’’

No matter the size of your agency, using crime analysis can help your agency to be more efficient at making the community you serve safer. If your agency doesn't have a crime analysis unit or a crime analysis function the International Association of Crime Analysts has a Development Center on their website that can help your agency begin a crime analysis program.

Does your agency have a crime analysis unit? If not, are you planning on starting one?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

It's Not Enough To Have Great Software, You Have To Know How To Use It

The Denver Post had a piece yesterday that covered a controversy caused when a Denver Police detective testified that their computer records management software overwrote information originally obtained in an investigation with information obtained later.

Witness descriptions of criminal suspects are often overwritten in computer records to reflect the descriptions of suspects later taken into custody by police, a Denver detective testified recently.

Defense attorneys say the system's flaws hide potentially exculpatory evidence, but the Denver Police Department denied that any evidence is intentionally overwritten or withheld.

Police spokesman Lt. Matt Murray on Tuesday said the detective who testified misunderstood how the computer record system works, and Murray promised a department wide refresher course on how to take and preserve witness statements.

Of course this brings up a significant issue. If the victim in a criminal case originally describes the suspect one way, and then the information is later changed to reflect a differing description of the person later arrested it appears that the evidence is being changed to fit the police agency's theory of who is responsible for the crime. If it's done unintentionally it's unfair and if it's done intentionally to frame the arrested person it's criminal. I'm not going to way in one way or the other in this particular case other than to say in both instances it's wrong.

What I do think is important to take from this is that it is very important to know just how your records management system works. Most modern police records management software are very complicated pieces of software. But just because they are complicated does not negate your responsibility to know how to properly use it.

Being my agency's resident computer geek I am often called to help folks out with their computer problems. One thing I've frequently told folks is that you can't complain about your software not working as it was designed if you aren't using it in the way it was intended to be used.

For instance I once was called to help a detective with his computer. He was having trouble accessing and retrieving documents he had created in Microsoft Word. As I began to work with him I noticed that his trash can icon indicated that there were a number of items in the "Recycle Bin". In order to help him get his files organized I emptied the Recycle Bin. Horrified, he then told me that this was where he was storing all his documents.

As we talked about this disaster, he indicated that he did not know how to access or create folders on his computer so he just stored all his working documents in the Recycle Bin as this was the one location he knew how to access.

Does your agency provide training on its various software applications? Is this provided by the software vendor or other knowledgable person or is your training more like "the blind leading the blind"?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

You Never Know What A 911 Call Will Turn Out To Be

The New York Times had an interesting piece on calls to 911 centers where the caller doesn't say anything. These calls are often referred to by 911 dispatchers as "open lines".
Open-line calls have long plagued emergency dispatchers, who handle about 240 million calls in more than 6,000 communications centers across the country, according to Trey Forgety, government affairs director for the National Emergency Number Association, a trade group. The advent of cellular technology has only expanded the potential for confusion. To those on the receiving end of the line, the silence can signify a prank, a pocket-dial or, just as easily, something haunting.
Sometimes these calls happen for innocuous reasons such as a child playing on the phone or a cell phone jammed into a back pocket. Other times these calls happen for more sinister reasons. In the case referred to in the New York Times story, Grapevine, TX Police got a 911 open line call that turns out to have came from the scene where six people were murdered by a relative on Christmas morning.

Most agencies and dispatch centers have policies about how they respond to 911 hang ups or 911 open line calls. At the agency where I work we respond to thousands of 911 open line calls every year along with about three times as many 911 hang up calls. Thankfully most of these calls turn out to be nothing. However, they do tie up a huge amount of police resources that could be better used for handling real emergencies.

How does your agency respond to 911 open lines or 911 hang up calls?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

NYC Crimes Are Down But Not In The World's Oldest Profession

Crime is down in New York City and has been headed that way for a number of years. One area that NYPD has not had as much success in is in the area of street prostitution according to this piece over at the New York Times. In the story there were a few things I thought were interesting.
Amid all the successes in New York City’s lengthy fight to drive down crime, street prostitution represents a stubborn exception. Though the police deploy various stings and strategies to clean up neighborhoods, prostitution-related arrests in the city continue to be logged at a fairly steady clip, averaging around 4,200 per year since 2006, according to the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services. 
Market forces and the Internet have pushed some sex work off the street, to where clients with more time and more money go. Such indoor workers include escorts, who work in brothels or independently, in their own homes; strippers who connect with prospective clients in bars and make dates for later meetings; and dominatrixes, according to a report by the Urban Justice Center’s Sex Workers Project.
I think is interesting is that prostitution is moving from the streets where it's easily visible to the Internet using sites such as Craigslist and Backpage. This cuts two ways. One, it makes prostitution less visible and less of a blight on neighborhoods. This is a good thing for these neighborhoods. But it often pushes the activity to cheap motels which quickly become problems themselves. The other issue is this lack of public visibility means that the priority for taking enforcement action can slip allowing this problem to grow undetected until it becomes a serious problem that is much harder to combat.

The other area I think is interesting is that more and more agencies are going after the johns and are considering the prostitutes more sympathetically as victims of human trafficking or drug addicts. Personally, I think this is a very good thing. When I first started in law enforcement, police often wanted to lock up the hookers and would frequently let the johns go in order to further those ends. I think this sent the wrong message to the johns that this activity was acceptable and only the hookers were in the wrong.

The Problem Oriented Policing Center has two books in their excellent POP Guide series that cover street prostitution and human trafficking.

Does your community have a problem with street prostitution? What is your agency doing to combat this problem?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Mounties Identify Crime Hotspots To Citizens

One of the common tasks of a crime analyst is to identify crime hotspots in a community. This allows law enforcement agencies to focus their enforcement efforts where they will likely have the greatest impact. There was a story over at The Chilliwack Progress that shows that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) are taking this one step further by publicly identifying these hotspots to the community they serve.

The hotspots - areas identified by a crime analyst to focus police resources and to alert local residents - include rural as well as urban locations of increased property crimes.

The list is released monthly by the RCMP's Upper Fraser Valley Regional Detachment.

In most agencies, the identification of crime hotspots is something that is used only internally and even in some cases is considered 'restricted law enforcement only' information. The RCMP regularly releasing this information to the community is unique. It's also an idea that I think shows promise.

I previously posted this on Why Public Crime Mapping Is Important. Just as public crime maps inform the public as to what is happening in their neighborhood, the release of hotspot information could similarly provide the public with the information they need to become a true partner in fighting crime in their community.

This type of openness would probably make quite a few law enforcement administrators a little nervous. When we recently launched our public crime map the head of another law enforcement agency voiced some concerns to us that criminals might use our maps against us in looking for new victims. In all my years in law enforcement and in the field of crime analysis I've just not seen instances of criminals using a crime map to find new areas to commit their crimes. Most times I think criminals are using other criteria in selecting their hunting grounds.

While I suppose there is a remote possibility that a criminal could use crime maps or hotspot information in their target selection process, I think the benefit to the public that comes from sharing crime information far outweighs any potential risk. If your agency is going to maximize the effectiveness of your crime fighting efforts you have to partner your efforts with the community you serve. A partnership where you keep your partner in the dark is not much of a partnership.

What are you doing to partner with your community?

Friday, February 10, 2012

There Are Some Awfully Scary People Out There

The Los Angeles Times had a great story yesterday that looked at the investigation behind the bombing attempt of a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in Spokane, Washington. It also looked at the resurgence of white supremacist activity in the Pacific Northwest.
Harpham "was what we feared most, the prototypical lone wolf extremist who didn't foreshadow the event in any way," the FBI's lead agent in Spokane, Frank Harrill, said in an interview. "There had been nothing that would signal that he would conduct some vicious attempt like this." 
The rush to identify a suspect — complete with an elaborate arrest plan involving a SWAT team disguised as road workers — reflected the fear that whoever was responsible might detonate a bomb somewhere else. 
"We all felt, although the timeline was uncertain, that this could be a race against a second device in some venue somewhere ... so it was all hands on deck," Harrill said. "One of the big concerns was that the geographic origin of the perpetrator was unknown.... We didn't even know if it was an individual" or a group.
The whole piece is a great read. It also brings up the threat that these types of loner's with a grudge pose to our communities.

What is your agency doing to be able to respond to these kinds of incidents?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Chicago Police Program Might Produce Novelists From Cops

In my years in law enforcement, I've seen departments teach reporting writing to their officers but never this: There was a piece over at the New York Times that covered a training seminar at Chicago PD that brought in novelists to teach officers how to write more than just police reports.
“Every policeman has said more than once, ‘We have got to write a book,’ ” said Sgt. Cynthia Schumann, a 26-year Chicago police veteran who said she had been jotting down her own notes, just words and bits and thoughts, for years. “People would not believe — you can’t make it up — what we’ve seen. It could be something very humorous, or it could be something very devastating and tragic.”
Sgt. Schumann's sentiment really is true. There is so much that cops see on the job that would make a great book or screen play. There have been quite a number cops who have made the jump to novelist over the years.  LAPD cop turned writer Joseph Wambaugh probably did more to spark my interest in becoming a cop than anyone or anything else.

Even yours truly has a couple of half finished manuscripts in my computer. Now if I can just find the time to finish them.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

While It Might Be Illegal, Do You Really Want To Pay To Enforce It?

CNN had a piece yesterday that had a line in it I just can't pass up commenting about. The story was about a law in New York City that bans idling vehicles in an effort to improve air quality in the Big Apple. The bit I thought was interesting was this line:
Passing laws is one thing; enforcing them is another.
That is something that legislators and city council people here in Texas would also do well to keep in mind. There are plenty of well intentioned laws on the books. However, just because there is a law on the books for something does not mean that the problem the law is to address is going to go away. In the CNN piece the story quotes NYC's Mayor with this:
"Keep in mind, enforcement costs money; the people that enforce have plenty of other things to do. (The) police department's first job is going to be worrying about more serious things."
And that is something to keep in mind; enforcing laws cost money, lots of money oftentimes. In today's fiscally lean times a community needs to ask itself where their limited law enforcement dollars are best used. Was the best way to solve this problem criminalizing the behavior and then expecting the police to "do something" about it?

In the sleepy little burg where I work, we have this law on the books:
Sec. 16-84. Riding wild horses on street.
Whosoever in this city shall ride or cause to be ridden along any street or alley, or upon the public square any wild or unbroken horse, mare, gelding or mule, knowing it at the same time to be wild and unbroken shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. (Ord. No. 91-32, § I, 5-28-91)
Even though we're in Texas, thankfully we aren't overwhelmed with unbroken horseback riding on the city streets. This is probably a good thing because if it was, we would have to make a decision about where our enforcement dollars are best spent. I don't know about you but I can think of things I'd rather tackle with our police officers than this.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

More On Cops Dealing With Vets In Crisis

A couple of weeks ago I posted about a new DOJ funded initiative to train cops to deal with military veterans in crisis. Yesterday there was this great story posted over at the Fayetteville Observer that also covers this topic. 
The shootout with Eisenhauer is the most public of what appears to be a surge in violent behavior and suicides among Fort Bragg soldiers and combat veterans in recent months 
Like Eisenhauer, many of those soldiers suffer from depression, PTSD and other mental health problems brought on by the stresses of war and multiple deployments. 
Fayetteville police Sgt. Steven Bates said he has seen the increase in violence firsthand.
"Absolutely," said Bates, who was a negotiator during the standoff with Eisenhauer. "It stands to reason. It's a statistical fact."
The entire article is worth the read. Here at my agency, we're right next to Fort Hood and regularly deal with combat veterans occasionally even the ones who have significant issues. But even if the nearest military base is hundreds of miles away from your jurisdiction, your agency is going to probably end up dealing with the minority of these vets who enter the criminal justice system at some point. I'm hoping that DOJ will fund this type of training for law enforcement agencies across the U.S.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Are You Overstaffed, Understaffed Or Somewhere In Between?

The San Francisco area news outlet KGO TV had an interesting piece this weekend that covered an analysis of the San Jose Police and Fire Departments by an outside entity that came to the conclusion that both the Police and Fire Departments were overstaffed.

Right now, San Jose has just under 1,100, the same number per capita that it had in 1974 when the crime rate was three times higher. IBM says the department could drop a few hundred officers.

"I think our police department's already too small and our fire department is stretched too thin. There are better ways to deploy the resources we have. That's what we're searching for," Mayor Reed says.

Reed says cutting is not the goal, but saving money is. Unland wants assurances. "If you want to look at some of the other recommendations, go ahead. But police and fire are off-limits," he says.

The lean economic situation that many municipalities find themselves in has caused them to consider what was once unthinkable; cuts to the public safety budget. Are you surprised that both the Police and Fire associations are displeased by this study?

However, in this case, these associations are going to have to do more than just draw a line in the sand and say that cuts to police and fire are "off-limits". The idea that the police department has the same number of officers per capita as it did decades ago when the crime rate was three times what it is now is going to be hard to refute with just a blanket pronouncement of "No".

If you asked anyone at a police agency or fire service if they feel they are adequately staffed, they will nearly always say "No". However, given the economy we really need to make sure that we are being as efficient as possible in our operations. This is one area that a crime analysis function at your agency can help.

A crime analyst can help ensure that your agency is getting the most bang for it's crime fighting buck by targeting enforcement where it's most effective, identifying crime reduction strategies that work and providing the information your agency needs to make sound decisions.

What is your agency doing to make sure that your community is getting the most public safety value for it's tax dollar? Are you making sure the community is informed about what it's tax dollar buys?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Traffic Enforcement Cameras Spur A Visceral Reaction

Yesterday USA Today had an interesting story about the public policy debate over the use of automated traffic enforcement camera systems. In some places the public backlash over these systems has led to laws banning their use while in other places, legislative bodies have specifically sanctioned their use. 
Interest in traffic camera legislation has spiked in recent years as the devices have become more commonplace, Teigen said. A handful of cities began testing cameras in pilot programs 20 years ago, but by 2000 just 25 had installed permanent red-light cameras. Over the past decade, however, that number has surged — to 550 in 2011. 
Still, about 20 states, including Iowa, have no laws on the books concerning cameras at all, generally leaving their use to the discretion of local communities. Amid that ambiguity, eight Iowa cities now use red-light cameras, speeding cameras or both, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
I find it kind of interesting that the public's reaction to these devices is as all over the map as the actual use of the cameras themselves. I think that deep down, opponents of the devices feel that their use is unsportsmanlike. There are also concerns about the motivations of the government entities that install them being more concerned about profit than safety. It is never a good idea to introduce a profit motive into enforcing laws.

Do you have these devices in your community? What has been the public's reaction to them?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

RAIDS Online Releases iOS App For Crime Maps

A little over a week ago, my agency announced that we were pushing crime data reported to our agency out to a publicly available crime mapping service, RAIDS Online. When we did this, I posted this piece on Why Public Crime Mapping Is Important. Yesterday things got even cooler with the release of the RAIDS Online Mobile application for Apple's iOS devices such as the iPhone and iPod.

The release of this application really broadens the reach of our crime maps. Given that so many people access the Internet via devices like the iPhone or iPad, I believe this is a very good thing. Generally, a native application works better at accessing these services than using the device's web browser.

I have installed it on both my iPhone 4 and my original iPad. The application is snappy and easy to use. Most of the features of the RAIDS Online website are also available on the iOS app. You can view crimes on a map or in a grid. You can also add a density layer, pick specific crime types and date ranges. You can even sign up for a geographic crime alert that will send you an email when a specific crime is reported within a specified range of a location you provide.

The only feature not available is the Analytics page that has the graphs. Most people may not even miss that as they probably just want to see crimes on the map. It's likely only a crime analyst that would miss the pie & bar charts as well as a temporal topology.

Both RAIDS Online and the RAIDS Online Mobile application were developed by Bair Analytics. At the agency where I work, we are also using their law enforcement only web based crime mapping solution ATACRAIDS as well as their desktop crime analysis software ATAC Workstation. All these products work well together and give me and my agency a full set of very capable crime analysis tools.

You can download the RAIDS Online Mobile application from Apple's iTunes AppStore at this link.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Teacher Accused Of Molesting Students, Media Firestorm Begins

I don't even know where to begin with this story over at CNN.

Mark Berndt, 61, was arrested on child molestation charges at his Torrance, California, home Monday and is being held pending $2.3 million bond in a Los Angeles County jail, according to Sheriff's Lt. Carlos Marquez.

He is scheduled to make a first appearance before a judge Wednesday morning on 23 counts of lewd acts on a child, according to the county's district attorney.

I'm not going to comment on the more lurid parts of this story. However, a crime such as this is going to have a huge impact on the investigating law enforcement agency. The attention by both the community and the media is liable to be intense.

I bring this up because you never know when a crime like this is going to be discovered in your community. Your agency needs to have plans in place beforehand on how to handle the media during these types of incidents. It's also important that the folks in your agency have practiced these plans beforehand.

Does your agency have a major media event plan in place? Have you practiced working with these plans?