Many agencies throughout the nation are good at understanding the power that historical data can have and are therefore try to be consistent in storing it away for safekeeping. But the truth is that storing this data is only the beginning. If all agencies do is SAVE the data, its real power becomes buried beneath the loads of other information that soon digitally “pile” on top of it. Saving data is a good first step, but analyzing data is even better. In the same vein, consistent policing is good, but consistent, intelligence-led policing is even better. The link between analyzed data and intelligence-led policing is far stronger than many realize.
Data fuels public safety intelligence through three main channels: Data Analysis, Data Visualization and Data Sharing. These three often intertwine when creating a truly substantial data analytics or intelligence-led policing strategy. Let’s take a quick look at each of them.
Naturally, the first step is actually analyzing the incoming data at your agency. This can be done in a myriad of ways, but some of the most common are examples such as creating reports on your incidents and calls for service while looking for time comparisons and other critical similarities. Doing this often provides clues into when, how or why certain events take place in your community. Using this data, your agency administrators can then prioritize investigative leads, knowing they have the data to back up that priority list.
Data analysis is most easily accomplished through a truly integrated RMS and analytics system. Consider the following: If your agency is using three disparate systems, that means you have to run various analytical reports in each of those systems, print or export the reports and then manually compare the reports to find trends and similarities. When using one integrated public safety software system, you can query information knowing that the latest and most relevant data will be returned because any and all information is coming through the same data hub. From the initial call for service all the way to incarceration, all information is instantly saved to the centralized, integrated database, meaning you can run one report to see all of the necessary information. This is brought to life even more when agencies are able to access this single database from the cloud because web-based platforms seamlessly combine data sources and enable access to data across silos to a higher degree. Utilizing this kind of single data entry format is vital to crime analytics and intelligence-led policing initiatives because it allows you to access the entire database and all relevant records in one search or one cohesive report.
Data visualization is the next step in data analytics. Visual cues and diagrams are the easiest way to make sense of a lot of information quickly, which is what makes a feature like mapping so crucial in any public safety software. There are many ways to visualize your data, such as graphs, diagrams, and others. However, the two most common ways to visually represent your data analytics are through heat maps and pin maps. Using robust software capabilities, you can plot out the data in either map to reveal trends in crime throughout your community or region. This helps your agency administrators detect future needs and then adapt workflow processes and efforts on a monthly, weekly or even daily basis. This plan of action strategizes and maximizes each effort taken at your agency and helps ensure that your agency is changing when necessary to adapt to growing needs in your community.
This also provides your team with enhanced situational awareness during responses. Think about it, does your response to a call for service change when it’s in an area with documented higher crime? Of course it does, because it’s your job to be prepared and safe. Looking at past records to discover hot spots and trends allows your team to quickly know not only where to focus resources, but also where to use extra caution when responding to incidents.
Data sharing is the third and final piece to using data analytics to fuel your intelligence-led policing strategy. There are multiple layers of sharing this information. The first is at a department level. Accurate data is only helpful if it is accessible by those who need it. Live data-sharing capabilities in your public safety software are crucial to keep all teams within your agency on the same page. When dispatch personnel, field personnel and command center administrators are all looking at the same information, situational awareness improves and officer and community safety are protected.
The next layer of sharing is between agencies, whether that’s between you and one other neighboring agency or between you and 60 other agencies on the same multi-jurisdictional system. Even within your own agency, the more data you have collected, the more accurate and useful your analytical reports will be. Taking that same idea and applying it to a multi-jurisdictional setting, imagine how rich the analytics will be once multiple agencies are contributing to the larger collective. Capturing and distributing criminal history information and photos in real time provides more detailed crime trends throughout a broader area and helps each agency to work together to develop prevention strategies that benefit every community.
The last layer of data sharing is sharing with your community. Communities are essential in the fight against crime; sharing crime data publicly is the first step to establish transparency and increase mutual trust with law enforcement. This is especially important today, when there are many ways for community members to find out about crimes happening in their area. Having that information come straight from the source instead of through third-party social media or news channels strengthens public trust in local law enforcement. Providing communities with critical information about their own neighborhoods shows them that they can turn to their law enforcement during critical moments and reinforces them as a true public safety partner.
In the end, regardless of how in-depth your agency gets with an intelligence-led policing strategy, converting your agency’s historical data into actionable analytics is key to propelling your policing initiatives forward. This in no way means that analytics can simply replace good old-fashioned police work. Rather, analytics are best used as a support mechanism to public safety, automating processes that are repetitive and take up critical resources. Analytics are meant to act as an additional assistant in recognizing different insights that may be buried within the data you’re already collecting on a daily basis.