Predictive Analytics Lead to Safer Communities

By Jessica Barker

It is 2:30 in the morning in a quiet neighborhood. Most of the street is dark, minus the flashing lights on top of the car. A police officer assesses the situation as he records the name of the perpetrator, as well as the make and model of the car. But the officer isn’t just responding to an incident; he was able to be in the right place at the right time. It wasn’t by chance that the officer was driving down the dark street and saw the suspicious person in question trying to enter the vehicle. It wasn’t even happenstance that the officer was in the surrounding area. Thirty-six hours prior to the interrupted car theft, his supervisor reconfigured patrol routes to better thwart criminal activity in the community’s highest risk neighborhoods. Doing so allowed the officer to be in the right place at the right time to address the situation. That is the power of analytical data in an agency’s public safety software system.

Working with Predictive Analytics

From smartphones to smart cars, technology is expanding at an incredible rate, in large part because organizations are now able to use real-time data to affect users in a way that is beneficial for them. The public safety industry is no different. Using technology that supports Intelligence-Led Policing methodologies, public safety agencies are able to analyze and better understand the criminal activity in their area and take actions to prevent it, rather than just responding after the fact. Using data in this way decreases crime and increases both citizen and officer safety. Predictive analytics also allow agencies to stretch their budgetary and personnel resources farther than they would otherwise be able to. But there are certain steps that must be taken first in order to take advantage of these capabilities.

The first step in implementing Intelligence-Led Policing initiatives at an agency is to gather the right information. By gathering this data, whether it be from incident reports, crime tips, calls for service, or even citizen feedback, law enforcement professionals have a vast amount of knowledge at their fingertips, which can lead to more informed decision-making. Often, agencies are already completing this step by creating or updating records in their software systems. Law records usually include fields to capture critical data, such as type of incident, location, offender, date and time, etc. The more accurate and complete the data is during the collection process, the more value it has later on in reporting. The main problem comes when agencies do not move the data beyond this basic stage of data collection and storage.

The real power of incident data comes with what you do with it post-incident. That is why the next step to implementing Intelligence-Led Policing initiatives at an agency is to have a software solution with on-the-fly searching and built-in analytics. This software allows administrators to pull record data into maps and other tools that can visually show crime patterns within a community. Personnel can then share this data with invested parties, including personnel in other departments, surrounding agencies, civil leaders, and the public. By sharing this information, responding officers are able to understand the importance of being even more aware of their surroundings when visiting certain locations. This also helps the community stay aware of any crime patterns occurring in certain areas. By staying better informed of these patterns, citizens may be able to offer tips or work with law enforcement to improve crime trends in their immediate community.

Often, crime patterns can be difficult to detect without looking at statistical reports that give a higher level view of the community. Utilizing predictive analytics gives agency administrators a clearer look into their jurisdiction that they can then plan patrols and other agency resources around. By allocating existing resources in a more effective manner, decision makers can save both time and taxpayer money because they are able to adapt agency processes quickly and in a way that targets high-risk areas.

Now more than ever, law enforcement is capable of moving away from a reactive workflow process by using criminal patterns and trends as their guide to proactively protecting their communities. By turning large amounts of information into actionable data, law enforcement agencies are able to be more strategic and efficient in their policing efforts.