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?