Proactive emergency plans: Data empowers law enforcement agencies at all levels

Business and Technology Writer

When law enforcement is tasked with preventing crime and minimizing the effects of criminal activity, especially during an emergency, many agencies turn to data. From the police reports in a single precinct to the unending stream of individuals' details flowing through the Web, there has never been more digital data available to officials.

Proactive emergency plans, however, rely on crime-stopping teams with the analytics tools and programs capable of transforming disparate information into a unified and searchable whole. In the following examples, the push for proactive data options in the law enforcement space is epitomized, as they show linking, correlating, and understanding subtle relationships in the data as the next generation of crime prevention.

A federal initiative to link disparate data

Local police know that linked data means proactive emergency plans can be better formed, better informed and better deployed. As part of the White House's Police Data Initiative, for example, 21 police departments across the United States are working to link more than 100 data sets that were not previously accessible. Twelve police departments have also committed to sharing their reports on police/citizen interactions with data scientists to fuel meaningful analysis and identify early warnings of potential problems in the community.

Fueling community-wide emergency plans

Data analytics lets law enforcement unlock details surrounding the root causes of crime and accidents. One example is occurring in Wisconsin, The Cap Times reports, where Dane County police have implemented the Data-Driven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety program.

Analysts can now see which intersections in the community breed the most collisions, what conditions fuel the most incidents, such as theft, and how to address the factors that drive those statistics. Similar analysis shows law enforcement where first responders can be best deployed during major events and where emergency resources are located in relation to the officials that require them.

Empowering the search

It's not enough to collect and link large quantities of law-enforcement data, though: The key to proactive emergency planning is to make the data universally searchable. If departments and agencies can't sift through the information in data sets, they can't take advantage of the insight that the data has to offer, such as discovering new best-practice opportunities and identifying patterns surrounding criminal activity, time of day, weather events, infrastructure interruptions and more.

Agencies such as the Central Intelligence Agency are employing new technology that helps them predict problems by looking for patterns within money transfers, cellphone use and other granular information, opening windows into the movements, actions and intents of persons of interest, as Fortune reports. Other initiatives allow law enforcement to find patterns and profiles in social-media chatter, past convictions and location-based information, thereby warning departments about individuals whose "threat rating" warrants further attention, according to Reuters.

Synergy: Real-time results are key

If data analytics are to work in the ways outlined above, one essential component is the speed and accuracy with which data is available to agencies and departments. The Wall Street Journal highlights the reality of the process: When delays and gaps in data persist, criminal activity outpaces analytics and proactive crime prevention can't take root. Programs such as the Police Data Initiative and the adoption initiative in Wisconsin represent steps toward solving that problem.

When data can be assessed for insights that fuel new approaches, law enforcement is armed with predictive tools. Data analytics help make every community safer, from the national level to the main streets of every city and town. The next crucial steps will be deeply connected to how departments and agencies can meet the funding and technological challenges of bringing crime and emergency management data together in a highly usable form. The future of data analytics in law enforcement depends on the next generation of public safety leadership answering exactly that call.

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