Analytics helps police in different jurisdictions fight crime

Technology Writer

Advanced analytics can help law enforcement officials across jurisdictions assist one another in predicting and preventing criminal activity. In particular, analysts, investigators and detectives can collaborate to share information to help detect threats and identify criminals.

Funding data strategies

Federal money often fuels local law enforcement programs that mine big data and create automated data searches. For example, in Oakland, California, the city has funneled millions in federal grants that were intended to help thwart terror attacks into a local initiative called the Domain Awareness Center, as The New York Times reports. The Center was designed to analyze surveillance data, which includes gunshot sensors and license-plate readers.

Meanwhile, Reuters details how the New York Police Department has used federal funds to partially finance its own Domain Awareness System, which analyzes similar data and cross-references it with criminal databases and terror suspect lists. These databases are supplemented by information from 6,000 surveillance cameras and 120 license-plate readers citywide.

"When a license plate reader sends an alert, analysts at headquarters communicate the information to cops on the street. With the push of a button, the DAS system's dashboard can geo-spatially map each location in the city where a plate reader has spotted the car in the past five years," NYPD Director of Counterterrorism Policy and Planning Jessica Tisch explained to Reuters.

Access to data on the go

The NYPD arms its officers with a tablet equipped with a mobile app designed to give officers access to the databases when they were out of the office. Such data might include listing outstanding warrants or gun permits related to an address officers are visiting for a 911 call. In addition, some police might be able to access footage from surveillance cameras in the city or readings on radiation sensors.

In August, Edwin Espinal, a police officer in New York, told ABC News that being able to get information on crime events in real time makes them more effective than if they had to work the traditional way, by receiving direction from radio dispatchers.

In Los Angeles, the LAPD uses a big data analytics program called LASER that digs through similar data to provide officers with relevant information. The department claims the program has been a success, according to CBS News: Before the program launched, there were 39 homicides a year, but there were only 14 last year. Moreover, at the end of the first year, the system identified 124 people as chronic offenders, and 87 of them were arrested at least once for "like crimes."

Some police also have access to automated data tools that mine social media to correlate threatening language to surveillance subjects and alert authorities if needed. For instance, if a disruption were to occur, a city can monitor activist groups on social media that are using such platforms for organizational purposes and pass any alerts on to law enforcement officials.

Predictive modeling is already taking root in marketing initiatives in the private sector. Law enforcement organizations have made it clear they would also greatly benefit from using predictive analysis as well.

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