Category Archives: policing

Big Data Surveillance: The Case of Policing

Posted by Douglas Wood, CEO of Case Closed Software – a leader in investigation software  and analytics for law enforcement.

Headquartered here in Central Texas, I recently had an opportunity to have coffee with Dr. Sarah Brayne, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology at The University of Texas at Austin. Ms. Brayne had just published an interesting article in The American Sociological Review. The article is titled Big Data Surveillance: The Case of Policing.

The article examines the intersection of two emerging developments: the increase in surveillance and the massive exploration of “big data.” Drawing on observations and interviews conducted within the Los Angeles Police Department, Sarah offers an empirical account of how the adoption of big data analytics does—and does not—transform police surveillance practices.

She argues that the adoption of big data analytics facilitates may amplify previous surveillance practices, and outlines the following findings:

  1. Discretionary assessments of risk are supplemented and quantified using risk scores.
  2. Data tends to be used for predictive, rather than reactive or explanatory, purposes. (Here, Crime Tech Weekly would want to differentiate between predictive analytics and investigation analytics)
  3. The proliferation of automatic alert systems makes it possible to systematically surveil an unprecedentedly large number of people.
  4. The threshold for inclusion in law enforcement databases (gang databases, criminal intelligence data, etc) is lower, now including individuals who have not had direct police contact. (Here again, Crime Tech Weekly would point out that adherence to criminal intelligence best practices vastly reduces this likelihood)
  5. Previously separate data systems are merged, facilitating the spread of surveillance into a wide range of institutions.

Based on these findings, Sarah develops a theoretical model of big data surveillance that can be applied to institutional domains beyond the criminal justice system. Finally, she highlights the social consequences of big data surveillance for law and social inequality.

The full PDF report can be downloaded via Sage Publishing by clicking here. Or, if you have general comments or questions and do not wish to download the full version, please feel free to contact us through the form below. Crime Tech Weekly will be happy to weigh in.

Data continues to influence policing

Great article by Megan Favignano at New Press Now. Original article at http://www.newspressnow.com/news/local_news/data-continues-to-influence-policing/article_ef968ba2-389c-5289-b341-a9818ae231d7.html

A copy of the article follows:

5WA recent report questions how some police departments are using data to forecast future crimes.

The report examined how departments are utilizing predictive policing, a computer software that uses data to forecast where crime may happen, who may commit it and who could be potential victims.

Logan Koepke, an analyst who coauthored the report, said the handful of departments that use the software don’t appear to give patrol officers much guidance on what to do with the information provided.

“One problem we’ve seen is there is not a lot of direction from police departments or from vendors about what officers in the field should do once they look at a prediction,” Koepke said.

Upturn, an analysis organization out of Washington, D.C., that works with a variety of groups, published the report “Stuck in a Pattern” last month. “Predictive policing,” the report states, is a marketing term popularized by vendors who sell the software.

The group’s research showed areas that use the software often don’t engage the public in discussion about predictive policing and questioned whether or not departments who use it are measuring the impact the data-driven tool has on policing and crime rates.

AnalyticsHow police departments nationwide utilize crime statistics and the software available to patrol officers monitoring incidents has evolved a lot in the past couple decades, Sgt. Tracy Barton with the St. Joseph Police Department said. Barton started as a patrol officer 20 years ago. He said having software like police have today would have been useful.

“I was in District 7, which is the Midtown area. It would have been really cool to know where crime is occurring in District 7 and that I could look that up on a computer and have it at my fingertips where I could see it on an up-to-date basis,” Barton said.

In the past, crime analysts used physical maps and mathematical algorithms to do what software does instantly today. Barton, the St. Joseph Police Department’s crime analyst, uses software that takes into account crimes reported to police to show crime hot spots in the city. A map of those hot spots is available online. Officers, he said, have access to a more in-depth version of that hot spots map, which includes extra details about the area and the crimes occurring.

The hot spots approach St. Joseph police use is most helpful in preventing crime when a series of crimes occur or when there is a crime pattern in a given area, he said. St. Joseph’s small size, Barton added, poses an extra challenge.

Crime analytics Mapping Predicitive Policing

The St. Joseph Police Department has had its current software for just a few years. It doesn’t fit the definition of the predictive policing software Upturn outlines in the recent report. The software used locally depends on crime reports police receive. Predictive policing also looks at what types of business are located in an area, if repeat offenders live nearby and other information to predict where crimes may occur. Typically, according to the recent report, predictive policing takes one of two approaches, focusing either on place-based data or person-based data to make predictions.

Kevin Bryant, sociology and criminology professor at Benedictine College, said when people hear predictive policing described, they often think of the movie “Minority Report.” The software, he said, is nothing like in the movies.

“Predictive policing now has kind of morphed into better proactive methods that are based on prediction to some extent in forecasting risk,” Bryant said of how data-driven policing has changed over time. “But what we’ve learned through evaluation studies is that it’s really more important what the police do when they’re in a crime hot spot.”

Ba10ryant worked with the Shawnee, Kansas, Police Department on research that looked at what he calls “smart policing.” In his research and in other work he has read, Bryant said it’s important for police to have a high visibility in crime hot spots, for officers to make connections with the public and for them to avoid staying in crime hot spots for extended periods of time.

When police are in a hot spot for too long, public surveys show area residents feel like they are being picked on rather than protected, he said. Predictive policing takes into account businesses in a given area. Bryant said some types of facilities are at a higher risk of victimization and others can attract crime to an area.

“Knowing where bars, taverns, restaurants, gas stations, convenience stores are, we can actually use their locations as a means of forecasting where crime might emerge at a later date,” Bryant said. “Part of predictive policing is predicting who the risky offenders are and that can be controversial.”

Upturn’s report also explored an ongoing debate among criminologists on the impact of using crime reports when determining patrol.

“Criminologists have long emphasized that crime reports and other statistics gathered by the police are not an accurate record of the crime that happens in a community,” the report states.

Police statistics, Koepke said, reflect officer enforcement efforts, not just crime.

 black version

NBC News gets rare look at NYPD CompStat meeting

Posted by Tyler Wood, Operations Manager at Crime Tech Solutions.

NYPD

NBC News was recently allowed a rare opportunity to sit in on a CompStat (computer statistics) meeting with the New York Police Department and they shared their experience with their viewers.

Watch the short video HERE.

(NOTE: Crime Tech Solutions is an Austin, TX based provider of crime and fraud analytics software for commercial and law enforcement groups. We proudly support the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Units (LEIU) and International Association of Crime Analysts (IACA). Our offerings include sophisticated link analysis software, comprehensive crime analytics with mapping and predictive policing, and criminal intelligence database management systems.)

What is Crime Analysis?

Posted by Tyler Wood Crime Tech Solutions, your source for investigation software.

The information provided on this page comes primarily from Boba, R. (2008: Pages 3 through 6) Crime Analysis with Crime Mapping. For a full discussion of the crime analysis discipline, refer to the book which can be obtained through www.sagepub.com.

Over the past 20 years, many scholars have developed definitions of crime analysis. Although definitions of crime analysis differ in specifics, they share several common components: all agree that crime analysis supports the mission of the police agency, utilizes systematic methods and information, and provides information to a range of audiences. Thus, the following definition of crime analysis is used as the foundation of this initiative:

Crime analysis is the systematic study of crime and disorder problems as well as other police–related issues—including sociodemographic, spatial, and temporal factors—to assist the police in criminal apprehension, crime and disorder reduction, crime prevention, and evaluation.

Clarification of each aspect of this definition helps to demonstrate the various elements of crime analysis. Generally, to study means to inquire into, investigate, examine closely, and/or scrutinize information. Crime analysis, then, is the focused and systematic examination of crime and disorder problems as well as other police-related issues. Crime analysis is not haphazard or anecdotal; rather, it involves the application of social science data collection procedures, analytical methods, and statistical techniques.

More specifically, crime analysis employs both qualitative and quantitative data and methods. Crime analysts use qualitative data and methods when they examine non-numerical data for the purpose of discovering underlying meanings and patterns of relationships. The qualitative methods specific to crime analysis include field research (such as observing characteristics of locations) and content analysis (such as examining police report narratives). Crime analysts use quantitative data and methods when they conduct statistical analysis of numerical or categorical data. Although much of the work in crime analysis is quantitative, crime analysts use simple statistical methods, such as frequencies, percentages, means, and rates. Typical crime analysis tools include link analysis and crime mapping software.

The central focus of crime analysis is the study of crime (e.g., rape, robbery, and burglary); disorder problems (e.g., noise complaints, burglar alarms, and suspicious activity); and information related to the nature of incidents, offenders, and victims or targets of crime (targets refer to inanimate objects, such as buildings or property). Crime analysts also study other police-related operational issues, such as staffing needs and areas of police service. Even though this discipline is called crime analysis, it actually includes much more than just the examination of crime incidents.

Although many different characteristics of crime and disorder are relevant in crime analysis, the three most important kinds of information that crime analysts use are sociodemographic, spatial, and temporal. Sociodemographic information consists of the personal characteristics of individuals and groups, such as sex, race, income, age, and education. On an individual level, crime analysts use sociodemographic information to search for and identify crime suspects. On a broader level, they use such information to determine the characteristics of groups and how they relate to crime. For example, analysts may use sociodemographic information to answer the question, “Is there a white, male suspect, 30 to 35 years of age, with brown hair and brown eyes, to link to a particular robbery?” or “Can demographic characteristics explain why the people in one group are victimized more often than people in another group in a particular area?”

The spatial nature of crime and other police-related issues is central to understanding the nature of a problem. In recent years, improvements in computer technology and the availability of electronic data have facilitated a larger role for spatial analysis in crime analysis. Visual displays of crime locations (maps) and their relationship to other events and geographic features are essential to understanding the nature of crime and disorder. Recent developments in criminological theory have encouraged crime analysts to focus on geographic patterns of crime, by examining situations in which victims and offenders come together in time and space.

Finally, the temporal nature of crime, disorder, and other police-related issues is a major component of crime analysis. Crime analysts conduct several levels of temporal analysis, including (a) examination of long-term patterns in crime trends over several years, the seasonal nature of crime, and patterns by month; (b) examination of mid-length patterns, such as patterns by day of week and time of day; and (c) examination of short-term patterns, such as patterns by day of the week, time of day, or time between incidents within a particular crime series.

The final part of the crime analysis definition—”to assist the police in criminal apprehension, crime and disorder reduction, crime prevention, and evaluation” generally summarizes the purpose and goals of crime analysis. The primary purpose of crime analysis is to support (i.e., “assist”) the operations of a police department. Without police, crime analysis would not exist as it is defined here.

The first goal of crime analysis is to assist in criminal apprehension, given that this is a fundamental goal of the police. For instance, a detective may be investigating a robbery incident in which the perpetrator used a particular modus operandi (i.e., method of the crime). A crime analyst might assist the detective by searching a database of previous robberies for similar cases.

Another fundamental police goal is to prevent crime through methods other than apprehension. Thus, the second goal of crime analysis is to help identify and analyze crime and disorder problems as well as to develop crime prevention responses for those problems. For example, members of a police department may wish to conduct a residential burglary prevention campaign and would like to target their resources in areas with the largest residential burglary problem. A crime analyst can assist by conducting an analysis of residential burglary to examine how, when, and where the burglaries occurred along with which items were stolen. The analyst can then use this information to develop crime prevention suggestions, (such as closing and locking garage doors) for specific areas.

Many of the problems that police deal with or are asked to solve are not criminal in nature; rather, they are related to quality of life and disorder. Some examples include false burglar alarms, loud noise complaints, traffic control, and neighbor disputes. The third goal of crime analysis stems from the police objective to reduce crime and disorder. Crime analysts can assist police with these efforts by researching and analyzing problems such as suspicious activity, noise complaints, code violations, and trespass warnings. This research can provide officers with information they can use to address these issues before they become more serious criminal problems.

The final goal of crime analysis is to help with the evaluation of police efforts by determining the level of success of programs and initiatives implemented to control and prevent crime and disorder and measuring how effectively police organizations are run. In recent years, local police agencies have become increasingly interested in determining the effectiveness of their crime control and prevention programs and initiatives. For example, an evaluation might be conducted to determine the effectiveness of a two-month burglary surveillance or of a crime prevention program that has sought to implement crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) principles within several apartment communities. Crime analysts also assist police departments in evaluating internal organizational procedures, such as resource allocation (i.e., how officers are assigned to patrol areas), realignment of geographic boundaries, the forecasting of staffing needs, and the development of performance measures. Police agencies keep such procedures under constant scrutiny in order to ensure that the agencies are running effectively.

In summary, the primary objective of crime analysis is to assist the police in reducing and preventing crime and disorder. Present cutting edge policing strategies, such as hotspots policing, problem-oriented policing, disorder policing, intelligence-led policing, and CompStat management strategies, are centered on directing crime prevention and crime reduction responses based on crime analysis results. Although crime analysis is recognized today as important by both the policing and the academic communities, it is a young discipline and is still being developed. Consequently, it is necessary to provide new and experienced crime analysts with training and assistance that improves their skills and provides them examples of best practices from around the country and the world. http://crimetechsolutions.com

 

Is “Minority Report” pure fiction?

Minority-Report-editPosted by Douglas Wood.

Journalist Raj Shekhar had an interesting article in the Times of India this week.

It’s like PreCrime, only four decades early. The “predictive policing” system seen in the Tom Cruise blockbuster Minority Report is now taking shape in Delhi. But instead of the three slime-immersed psychic “Precogs” that system relied on, Delhi Police’s crime prediction will be based on cold, hard data.

Once Enterprise Information Integration Solution or ‘EI2S’—a system that puts petabytes of information from more than a dozen crime databases at police staff’s fingertips—is ready, Delhi Police will be able to implement its ‘Crime Forecast’ plan to predict when and where criminals will strike.

The technology is not as fanciful as it seems at first and is already being tried out in many important cities, including New York, Los Angeles, London and Berlin. Officers associated with the plan say the software will analyze police data for patterns, compare it with other data from jails, courts and other crime-fighting agencies, and alert police to the likely threats. Data will be available not only on the suspects but also their likely victims.

A global tender has been floated for the project and Delhi Police is in talks with various firms for the technology.

According to the article, the system can help pre-empt many situations. For example, a violent clash between two gangs. It can identify individuals who are likely to join gangs or take to crime in an area based on the analyses of their behaviour and network. It can also curb domestic violence by identifying a pattern and predicting the next attack, the article said.

It all boils down to spotting patterns in mountains of data using tremendous computing power. A police document about the plan states that investigators should be able to perform crime series identification, crime trend identification, hot spot analysis and general analysis of criminal profiles. Link analysis will help spot common indicators of a crime by establishing associations and non obvious relationships between entities.

Using neighbourhood analysis, police will be able to understand crime events and the circumstances behind them in a small area as all the crime activity in a neighbourhood will be available for analysis. Criminal cases will be classified into multiple categories to understand what types of crime an area is prone to and the measures needed to curb them. Classification will be done through profiles of victims, suspects, localities and the modus operandi.

Another technique, called proximity analysis, will provide information about criminals, victims, witnesses and other people who are or were within a certain distance of the crime scene. By analyzing demographic and social trends, investigators will be able to understand the changes that have taken place in an area and their impact on criminality.

Network analysis will also be a part of this project to identify the important characteristics and functions of individuals within and outside a network, the network’s strengths and weaknesses and its financial and communication data.

While the system could help fight crime and rid Delhi of its ‘crime capital’ tag, it is bound to raise concerns over privacy and abuse as no predictive system can be foolproof.