Law enforcement agencies such as police departments and investigation bureaus have always dealt with data in their duty to stamp down on crime and keep the peace in their communities. From witness statements and crime scene details to suspect descriptions and their criminal records, it’s no exaggeration to say that data contributes greatly to the law enforcers’ ability to perform their jobs and exercise their mandate. Without data, any law enforcement organization may find it difficult to do its duties.
That said, how exactly do they use the huge amounts of data they gather daily? What are the different ways to use all that data to help protect the public? If you’ve ever been curious about such questions, read on as we explore the unique ways law to help preserve public safety.
Predictive policing is one of the novel ways the police are leveraging data to help lower crime and protect the public. It involves usingto handle and integrate the huge amounts of data that the police already have and continue to generate. It allows them to map out crime hot spots in their area and predict what types of crimes will happen.
This allows the police department to have a better idea about where to deploy their officers to have a higher chance of stopping or resolving the crimes before or after. Moreover, the analysis helps identify repeat offenders in the, making more effective arrests.
Predictive policing may sound like science fiction, but it’s already a reality. It’s been seeing use as far back as the early 2010s, with the police departments of major cities in the US, such as, , Dade, , and , using their versions of Predictive Policing systems to run their precincts better.
The proof is clear whether it helps: all participating cities reported lower arrests and crime ratesimplementing predictive policing. in just one area alone, with an overall average decrease of 15.8% in violent crimes in the entire city—without increasing the number of officer patrols.
Solving cold cases
Another way law enforcement agencies use data to protect public safety is to solve criminal cases in their jurisdiction areas. Doing this prevents further criminal acts from being perpetrated, thus making their communities safer.
While traditional data analysis has always played a key role in solving criminal cases, it can only do much when solving old, unsolved crimes. The information is often incomplete in these “cold” cases, leading to inconclusive ends that fail to score convictions.
It’s here that real-time list of potential suspects that the police can pursue until the real culprit is found.can help once more. Like predictive policing, police departments use analytical solutions to compare specific details of a cold case against others within their database of information. These details are juxtaposed against historical data about other crimes and information about registered criminals’ distinct crime behavior patterns. The result is a
Yet another futuristic idea sounds too good to be true, except that. For instance, the Miami-Dade Police Department has employed this technology since 2013. Their crime analytics program, codenamed , has helped massively reduce crime and recidivism by helping identify culprits in numerous cold cases.
When keeping citizens safe, data isn’t just used by law enforcement agencies to catch criminals or solve cases. It’s also being used to help correct police procedures and make them more effective while cutting down on wrongful arrests.
One great example of a use case was made apparent during thein which the New York Police Department was embroiled. The number of stop-and-frisk incidents that NYPD officers initiated from 2002 to 2013 was analyzed here. The analysis revealed that almost 9 out of every 10 people stopped and frisked for weapons and contraband were innocent. Moreover, 9 out of 10 arrested and frisked people were of non-Caucasian lineage.
This led to the stop-and-frisk NYPD policies being revamped altogether, drastically reducing the number of stops from 685,724 in 2011 to a mere 46,235 in 2014. The analysis and insights helped the police department curb its overzealousness while promoting a better sense of personal accountability among its officers.
Training police officers in identifying vulnerable individuals in society
Finally, data is also being used to help train police officers to better identify and interact with the vulnerable individuals in their districts, such as juveniles and youths who have been exposed to or have become community and domestic violence victims. The US federal government recognized as early as 2013 that such individuals require urgent and immediate rehabilitation to prevent them from becoming actual criminals later in life.
The government has since invested in improving data collection systems to capture more details regarding reported crimes, victims, and the social context of the crimes—especially if they involve young individuals as victims, offenders, or bystanders. With all this information, the federal government hopes to train police officers to identify these young individuals in advance and treat them differently from common criminals.
One particular law enforcement agency where this is already being applied is Arizona’s Scottsdale Police Department. Data about juveniles has helped them deal with youth in their communities. The insights provided by data analytics allowed them to create and implement a pre-arrest and court record diversion program, allowing vulnerable children to be rescued instead of apprehended. They are then rehabilitated and released without any marks on their public records, allowing them to move on to become productive adults without having the stigma of their past mistakes haunt them.
Data: an important element in keeping the public safe
We’ve all heard about how data is used in many companies and industries to help drive productivity and profitability. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, the above-listed case studies of data usage by law enforcement agencies illustrate that data can also be used for the betterment of society, specifically in protecting the public’s safety. We can only imagine what other major roles data analytics will play.