There’s a dark side to evidence boards. As almost anyone in law enforcement can attest to, this dark side appears when there’s so much information being dissected, extracted, and synthesized that it makes even the most seasoned officer’s eyes cross.
Between the mess of case files, photos, and newspaper clippings, crime boards are not always the best way to really see the big picture. Thankfully, technology allows for discovering new methods for visualizing data relationships that lead to case-solving connections.
But this is where some law enforcement officers and public safety personnel start to get frustrated. After all, burying one’s nose in data sets is rarely what inspired these individuals to get into the public safety field.
But what if analyzing data didn’t have to be difficult? What if intuitive data analysis could illustrate relationships between people and events without hours spent rummaging through old case files?
Data is one of the most powerful tools in law enforcement’s toolbox. Effective data aggregates and contextualizes information, allows for comparing incidents across time and jurisdictions, and allows for changing tactical behavior based on information agencies already possess.
With the help of powerful technology, data-driven solutions are changing the way we think about and solve crime. Here’s how:
1. It isn’t easy to detect data relationships on your own
When mapping out relationships between events, people, places, etc., it can be difficult and time-consuming to fully understand information without the right tools. Crime analysis software such as Tyler Technologies’ Link Analysis solution puts law enforcement officers and investigators in the driver’s seat. Law enforcement personnel can quickly detect and visualize relationships through graph databases, or single-purpose platforms designed for creating and manipulating graphs, without a steep learning curve.
These solutions bring better situational awareness to the investigation, potentially making an overall stronger case.
2. Integration simplifies analysis
Manual crime analysis means that entire walls can be dedicated to mapping relationships between events, people, places, and other elements. Unfortunately, when doing it that way, it can take days (or even weeks in some cases) to extract all the data, interpret the connections, and find a way to make sense of the relationships. Many agencies are experienced in going through this process using sticky notes, yarn, Sharpie markers, Duct tape, and other means — all of which are very time-consuming.
To add to that, many agencies utilize crime analysis software solutions that require complex data imports. In those instances, not only is it required to download case files from a records management system and import them into another existing system, but it is also required to understand what makes the data important in the first place. That adds a lot of extra steps and room for error.
Instead, agencies should look for crime analysis solutions with built-in data integration capabilities. Data integration transforms manual tasks that can take hours into a few simple clicks. That means law enforcement officers spend less time dealing with data and more time protecting and serving.
3. Clean visualizations make connecters clearer
Manual evidence boards may help visualize relationships, but it’s an outdated practices that makes it difficult to glean information quickly. Comparatively, graph databases are particularly good at clearly illustrating relationships and events from complex data structures and multiple data sources.
Whether using a single case as a starting point or multiple data points such as different people, vehicles, or other points of information, modern analysis solutions allow for exploring full relationships across all data.
For example, a detective may have a lead that the victim of a convenience store robbery (let’s call her Jodi) was actually an insider who knew the robbers. A witness hears one robber call the other Keith, and they were both spotted leaving the scene in a red truck. The investigator needs to draw correlations between the suspect (Keith), the vehicle (red truck), and the supposed victim (Jodi). From here, the investigator can use crime analysis tools to establish the connection between all individuals and elements involved in the situation or case.
Figure 1a: Circular layout found in Tyler’s Link Analysis solution
In addition to visualizing relationships, crime analysis solutions should offer different types of interactive graphs. For example, circular layouts (Figure 1a) visualize how graphs often contain subgraphs of nodes that are more strongly related to each other. When used, circular layouts contain subgraphs, or clusters, that emphasize the connections in a drawing while highlighting the superstructure and detail of the overall graphs.
Figure 1b: Symmetric layout found in Tyler’s Link Analysis solution
On the other hand, symmetric layouts (Figure 1b) emphasize connected nodes by placing them close to each other and drawing edges with straight lines. Symmetric layouts are particularly useful for graphs that represent structures that happen in real life such as social or computer networks.
4. User-friendly solutions help you get the information you need
While not everyone is necessarily into the intricacies of new technology, this same technology is most effective when it's accessible to many users. In any agency, there are some users who want high-powered functionality and others who just need access to certain information. So, why not implement a solution that can do both?
Easy-to-use tools are crucial for law enforcement agencies. That’s why it’s important to look for crime analysis solutions that strike a balance between robust feature capabilities and ease of use. Software that is powerful but intuitive is easier to adopt and produces more engaged, empowered users.
5. At the end of the day, agencies want to close cases
The longer a case stays open, the less likely it's going to be solved. Even in the best-case scenarios, agencies only have so much time and resources available.
But what if your agency could do more with less? Less effort spent by public safety personnel sifting through old case files, less time spent piecing together evidence, and more information available when it's needed most.
Ultimately, that's the goal of crime analysis software: to utilize the power of data analysis to improve law enforcement operations.
Data is here, and it's not going anywhere. In the months and years to come, data tools will become a functional requirement for all agencies wanting to turn the page on crime. Because the sooner you can connect and close cases, the sooner you can do what you do best, which is getting out in the field and focusing on the community.
Want to gain a deeper understanding of the future of crime analysis technology? Join us for our upcoming webinar ‘Streamline investigations: How to visualize digital evidence boards quickly’ on Sept. 23rd.