Mar 21 2017

Data Analytics Is Making Predictive Policing Possible

Digital tools and community policing are coming together to create better pictures of where crime will happen next.

Police may soon know where criminals are located before they even get there. It may seem like a science fiction movie plot, but police departments in cities and states across the country are beginning to embrace analytics tools to introduce real-time information and predictive patterns to their officers on patrol.

With data analytics emerging as a way for state governments to better secure their internal cyberdefenses, the technology is now being used in conjunction with everyday tools to better manage a police force’s resources and help officers make decisions about tracking criminals.

Minnesota Makes Analytics Part of Patrol

In the Minneapolis suburb of Eden Prairie, Minn., police officers rely on a dedicated analyst who uses tools, like the Microsoft Office Suite and IBM’s Analyst’s Notebook, to provide real-time suspect descriptions, potential patterns and any additional information that may help an officer on patrol stop or catch a criminal, GovTech reports.

Law Enforcement Analyst Ryan Kapaun tracks, aggregates and maps crime in the city, using that data to offer intelligence to officers and help them make split-second decisions alongside several other tools, including their intuition.

“What I’m most interested in is not aggregating and mapping all of the burglaries. What I want to know is, what are the anomalies? What doesn’t fit? What are the burglaries, as an example, that aren’t fitting the other burglaries?” Kapaun told GovTech.

Moreover, he collects all crime data with the aim of providing context around changes in patterns. This helps police officers know where to distribute resources.

“Everyone is using data, and they might not either be aware of it or understand it, and if you think of it, a police department has a wealth of data — they’re data-rich. It’s just figuring out how to take that data and use that data in a way that’s meaningful,” he said. “I think a lot of agencies end up using the data to just say, ‘Burglaries are up 15 percent from this week over last week.’ For a patrol officer, when I used to do that, eyes would glaze over. What does that mean? You have to tell the story with the data.”

Seattle Calls on Analytics to Understand Use-of-Force

Amid several high-profile use-of-force incidents involving police, the Seattle Police Department has launched a data analytics platform to monitor such events, StateScoop reports. The new platform, released in January, aims to help the department incorporate statistics and trend monitoring into the department’s operational method, thus allowing them to better understand the occurrence and circumstances around incidents.

The new system tracks 17 metrics that include both data on the Seattle area (such as where all use-of-force incidents occur) and information on the officer himself, such as how many of these incidents an officer is involved in and the average number of these incidents in his peer group. The dashboard alerts leaders when these metrics exceed certain parameters.

“He may be the leading officer for use-of-force incidents, but just looking at somebody from a statistical standpoint doesn't really tell the story,” noted Jody Weis, public safety lead at Accenture and the former superintendent of the Chicago Police Department. “So what we’ve incorporated is a lot of other information, such as the number of dispatches he goes on, how many of those are self-initiated by the officer, what’s the average for his peer group, civilian complaints, street stops, training records and other data.”

With the database now online, the system leaves room to upgrade to predictive analytics capabilities and can integrate with body-worn cameras to provide information around the full scope of an incident.

“What I like about the system we created is the complete picture of an officer, because the last thing you want to do is negatively indict an officer simply looking at raw numbers,” said Weis. “You need to look beyond the numbers and actually see what this officer is all about.”

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