Analytics for crime prevention: Powering real-time crime centers to keep cities safe
Crime prevention efforts around the country benefit from advanced analytics. When police can tap into the increasing amount of data from previously unconnected sources, they are able to identify threats and stop potential crimes. Insights from data analysis can also help law enforcement solve crimes faster when incidents do occur.
As Information Age points out, law enforcement has access to vast amounts of data from emails, video and chat files as well as from fingerprint files, police records, drivers' licenses, car registries and other public databases. With this data and the use of advanced analytics, law enforcement officials can identify trends and patterns that older crime prevention methods simply did not have the capacity to accomplish.
For example, Information Age explains that phone call patterns have been used identify drug trafficking suspects. Police have also been able to analyze data from disparate sources, including social media, police records and third-party databases, to uncover anomalous relationships for persons of interest in certain crimes. Similarly, advanced analytics enable law enforcement to identify suspects, networks of criminals and other hidden patterns, then spot emerging threats and respond appropriately.
Analytics power real-time crime centers
Perhaps the most concentrated use of analytics in crime prevention is at real-time crime centers (RTCCs), which grew out of a need to capture and share information immediately to help with crime detection, prevention and resolution, according to PoliceOne.com. The capabilities of RTCCs differ from city to city, but the unifying concept is developing a real-time operational view by collecting and analyzing data from previously siloed information, such as national crime databases, 911 phone records, arrest records, criminal complaints, incidents, and other structured and unstructured data.
For example, video analytics and sensors in crowds can help anticipate movement and detect gunshots. This type of real-time data provides police with the intelligence needed to quickly and safely respond to shooting incidents. By integrating current information and historical records, law enforcement officials can develop more effective processes and responses.
The growth and accomplishments of New York's RTCC
The New York Police Department's RTCC is one example of how analytics can aid law enforcement. The center has access to more than a decade's worth of New York City criminal complaints, arrests and 911 call records — a total of 120 million incidents, according to Police Chief Magazine. It also incorporates more than 5 million New York-based criminal records and parole files and 31 million records of crimes across the nation.
The state-of-the-art facility includes:
- A single front-end access point that brings together databases that would otherwise be siloed.
- A reconciliation engine that pulls data together based on meaning and relationships and presents information to the user in an actionable format.
- Text search capabilities so officers can parse criminal complaints and RTCC staff can intuitively analyze unstructured data.
- Public information databases with records about licenses, arrest records and other pertinent data.
- A real-time 911 dashboard that compares caller needs with police resources.
The New York RTCC is adding more analytical capabilities, such as the ability to mine data with multiple keywords. The center is also in the process of expanding historical data search capabilities.
New York and other large cities were the first to open RTCCs, but smaller communities are following suit given the success of current RTCCs. For instance, Fox 2 Now reported that St. Louis recently launched a real-time crime center that allows police to monitor community activity through a network of cameras. Because data analysis can be used to prevent crime and better serve communities, it has quickly become an invaluable public safety tool.