Monday, July 29, 2013

The Crime Analyst’s Blog is moving!

For the past five years I’ve used Google’s Blogger service to host The Crime Analyst’s Blog. Five years is a long time where the Internet is concerned. One significant change that has taken place during this time is the rise of social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Google+. I’m an avid user of Twitter to promote posts here on the blog and to supplement the blog.

Google has made a number of improvements to its Google+ social media service. One major improvement is adding the ability to have a stand alone Google+ Page along with your personal Google+ profile. In fact, much of the functionality of a blog is available on a Google+ Page.

Most of my posts here on the blog consist of a link to a news article and a few comments about the article and how it applies to crime analysis. This style of blogging is perfect for Google+. For this reason, I am going to be moving The Crime Analyst’s Blog to it’s own Google+ Page.

I will leave the Blogger version up with all the previous posts but any new posts will take place on Google+. I’ll even been pointing the domain to resolve to the Google+ Page over the next week or so.

You don’t have to have a Google+ account to read a post on a Google+ Page but if you do, it is real easy to join the conversation by commenting or sharing. I’ll also continue to send links to these Google+ posts via Twitter.

This move will make it much easier for me to continue posting on crime analysis and related topics.

Friday, July 26, 2013

So Just How Effective Are Neighborhood Watch Programs?

While it looks like the programs can be effective in some neighborhoods, the upshot is that there doesn't seem to be agreement on just why or how much. Via The Pacific Standard

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Should cruise ships be required to report crime stats?

Only a tiny portion of alleged crimes on cruise ships is ever publicly disclosed, according to a report by the Senate Commerce Committee.

Of 959 crimes reported to the FBI since 2011, only 31 were disclosed on a web site maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard.
Maybe they need to be mandated by law to report all crimes like the Clery Act required of colleges. 

Are We Militarizing Police At The Expense Of Community Policing?

"Many longtime and retired law-enforcement officers have told me of their worry that the trend toward militarization is too far gone. Those who think there is still a chance at reform tend to embrace the idea of community policing, an approach that depends more on civil society than on brute force." Via The Wall Street Journal
The over reliance on this type of law enforcement erodes the primary mission of law enforcement; to partner with the community to reduce crime and make the community safer.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

When Downtown Gentrifies They Get A Whole New Set Of Problems

The Atlantic Cities had a story last week that looked at efforts to revitalize Greensboro, North Carolina. These efforts have created a whole new set of problems as groups of youths began to frequent the area. Recently some disorder problems developed and the city responded by invoking a youth curfew ordinance. 
"Everyone agrees that street fighting among thoughtless teens can't be tolerated. The question is, what’s the best strategy for keeping the peace? Is it to, in effect, tell young black people that they are automatically suspect? Or is it to continue to build a place where more people of all ages and races can come together?" Via The Atlantic Cities
The Center for Problem Oriented Policing has one of their excellent POP Guides that looks at different responses to The Problem of Disorderly Youth in Public Places. If you are dealing with the same kind of problem that Greensboro is, this guide would be worth reading.

Monday, July 22, 2013

"Bleak Future" For Police? I Call Bullsh*t

There was a piece over at the website FastCompany with the provocative title "What Detroit’s Incredible Crime Problems Show Us About The Bleak Future Of Police". The story looks at the problems that have faced the bankrupt city of Detroit.

Detroit's staggering fiscal problems have led to layoffs and an exodus of police officers. The story touches on how Detroiters have tried to fill the public safety void with volunteer patrols and if a neighborhood can afford it, private security.

But to argue that this is the "bleak future" for police in general is complete balderdash. Very few other cities have fiscal problems on Detroit's scale and those that do arguably have less managerial dysfunction than Detroit.

I've seen very few cities trying to replace police officers with volunteer patrols or private security guards. There are cities that organize folks into Neighborhood Watch programs but these are outreach and crime prevention programs for police departments rather than a replacement.

If you saw the scary looking headline and wondered if this is where law enforcement was heading, don't. We're not being outsourced.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

"Lot Lizards" Film Looks At Truck Stop Prostitution

Mother Jones magazine recently published a piece where they interviewed documentary filmmaker Alexander Perlman on his documentary "Lot Lizards" that provides a candid look at truck stop prostitution. The film's title comes from trucker slang for these prostitutes.

You can find more information about the film here.

Hopefully this film will help publicize the problem of truck stop related prostitution. Earlier this year, Mother Jones detailed an innovative program by Dallas, TX Police to help truck stop prostitutes leave business by helping them with counseling and rehab.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Officer Down: Officer Robert (Bobby) Hornsby

Here's the Killeen Police Department press release for fallen Officer Robert (Bobby) Hornsby.

If you are interested in helping, you can dontate to:

KPD Law Enforcement Assistance Fund
c/o Killeen Police Department
3304 Community Blvd.
Killeen, TX 76542
Attn: Ofc. Robert Hornsby Fund
or Ofc. Juan Obregon Fund

Why Don’t We Use More DNA Evidence For Property Crimes?

This story caught my eye last week. There was a piece over at the Urban Institute's Metro Trends Blog that argues that changes to how DNA evidence is used could increase it's effectiveness.

We’d nab more bad guys if we tested DNA from burglaries rather than murders, making the threat from DNA collection and retention much more real— and thus we would deter more future offending.

Via Metro Trends Blog

The piece makes a pretty good argument for using DNA evidence to combat burglaries and is worth reading.

Monday, July 15, 2013

An Unlikely Partnership Reduces Gang Violence In Los Angeles

Last week there was a great piece in The New York Times that looked at how a unusual partnership between the Los Angeles Police Department and community leaders including former gang members has reduced gang violence in some of the formerly worst LA neighborhoods. 
Causality is slippery, especially when it comes to crime. The L.A.P.D.’s decision to deploy 30 additional officers to Watts’s three largest housing projects has undoubtedly contributed to the area’s improvement. Research has shown that “hot-spot policing” — flooding high-crime areas with police officers — effectively reduces crime without simply displacing it. But the department’s efforts in Watts go beyond “cops on dots.” In recent years, the L.A.P.D. has been conducting an unusual experiment in community policing in Watts. Its centerpiece, the Community Safety Partnership, is the department’s collaboration with a group of residents known as the Watts Gang Task Force. Every Monday morning, community leaders meet with top police commanders to discuss what’s happening in the Watts gang world — who’s feuding with whom, where criminal investigations stand, which are the issues residents are worried about. What makes the initiative unusual is that many of the task force’s participants have close ties to street gangs. Some, like Mendenhall, are former gang leaders. Others are the mothers and grandmothers of notorious gang leaders past and present.

Via The New York Times
It's a long piece but definitely worth the time to read it. The big take away from the story is that it is not possible for traditionally reactive policing methods to tackle persistent crime problems. If they police are viewed as an 'occupying army' and do not have the trust of the community they serve they will fail in their mission.

A community policing mindset is critical to solving these endemic crime problems.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Killeen Police Officer Shot & Killed, Another Wounded In Shootout

One of the officers I work with was killed this morning.  This is going to be a really difficult week for so many people. As I get details about how you can help the officer's family I'll post it. The press release is below.

Monday, July 8, 2013

When You Fudge Your Crime Numbers, You're Hurting Your Department

There was a piece in The New York Times last week that looked at an NYPD audit of how crime stats were counted. The upshot of the piece is that the audit uncovered a number of instances where crimes were misclassified.
While praising the department on the considerable resources devoted to auditing crime statistics, the committee noted that most of those efforts were directed at identifying “human error” — that is, unintentional mistakes in a police officer’s paperwork. But for “an officer who wishes to manipulate crime reporting,” the report said there were “few other procedures in place that control the various avenues of potential manipulation.”
Via The New York Times
As a crime analyst, this kind of nonsense drives me crazy. While you may get a temporary pat on the back for driving crime down in your district, the praise is likely to be short lived. One, there are plenty of folks (journalists for one) out there willing to dig through the crime reports, find where you screwed up and pillory you for it.

The second and more important reasons is, if you fudge your numbers then you do not have an accurate assessment of what is actually going on in your community. You will be unable to identify crime problems, and you will be unable to identify if your crime reduction efforts are actually working. While you are driving around in the dark hoping that your crime reduction efforts are working you could be unaware that a nearly insurmountable crime problem is developing.

Don't fudge your crime numbers. It's stupid and you are only hurting your agency in the long run.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Is Police Trickery A Detriment To Community Trust?

A while back, the US Supreme Court ruled that police drug checkpoints were illegal. However, they did not rule police saying there was a narcotics checkpoint ahead illegal, just actually running the checkpoint. This has led to a creative ruse by some police departments.
Police in the city of 19,000 recently posted large yellow signs along Interstate 271 that warned drivers that there was a drug checkpoint ahead, to be prepared to stop and that there was a drug-sniffing police dog in use.

There was no such checkpoint, just police officers waiting to see if any drivers would react suspiciously after seeing the signs.
Via The Seattle Post Intelligencer
Of course, when someone acts suspiciously when they see the checkpoint signs, police then use that and any traffic offenses committed by persons trying to avoid the checkpoint as probable cause to stop the person and check their vehicle for illegal drugs.

While this tactic isn't illegal since there was no actual checkpoint I have some misgivings about this police tactic. I'm not so sure that such blatant dishonesty is really conducive to building trust with the community you are supposed to be serving.

It's similar to the public vitriol regarding traffic enforcement cameras. While no one likes to get a ticket from a cop who caught you speeding, using unmanned traffic cameras seem like playing dirty pool. That really ticks off the public.

Just because something is legal, doesn't always mean it's right. Given how hard it is to build community trust and just how easy it is to lose it, we should probably err on the side of honesty and integrity. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Implications of Big Data In Policing

The New York Times Bits Blog recently had a piece in a series on Big Data. This piece looked at how the rise of Big Data is affecting policing. 
“Where technology has caught up is to allow police to ask questions about what’s happening in their jurisdictions and to be able to understand temporal patterns, spatial patterns,” said Joel M. Caplan, assistant professor of criminal justice at Rutgers University in New Jersey, who has developed a crime forecasting program with his colleagues and is testing it at a half-dozen police agencies.

Via The New York Times Bits Blog
I recently had a conversation with a journalist who asked me what I thought was the biggest promise predictive policing had for law enforcement. I responded that I thought it was the improved efficiency for police agencies. This efficiency will lead to agencies making better use of the resources they have in making their communities safe. I also believe that agencies must tread carefully with these types of technologies given the public's sensitivity to perceived government surveillance in light of the recent NSA intelligence scandals.

What do you think will be the greatest implication of the rise of predictive policing?