Data analytics are a game changer for jurisdictions across the country, providing insight so leaders can ask – and answer – questions that can transform communities. Cities from Austin to Los Angeles to New York are using data to tackle homelessness, create social change, and protect consumers.
Can public safety similarly benefit from connecting and using data to reduce crime and create safer communities? The Pinellas Park Police Department (PPPD) in Florida answered this question with a resounding “yes.” The department used data analytics to:
- Build community trust
- Reduce crime
- Make smarter decisions
By arming residents with community crime information and turning raw data into actionable insights, Pinellas Park is pioneering data analysis to solve community problems and amplify the impact of the police department’s efforts.
Access to incident data increases transparency as well as the public’s trust in its police force.
“I was a records manager for a couple of years with my department,” said Capt. Adam Geissenberger of the PPPD, “and a decent amount of time was committed to answering citizen phone calls or emails requesting information like, ‘I’m moving to Pinellas Park, here’s the address. Could you tell me about crime there?’ I had to stop, I had to download the data, I had to interpret the data, and I had to make sure the information I was releasing was permitted to be released per public record law.”
This time-consuming process also left the requestor with information that was out of date by the time it was released. To combat these challenges, PPPD implemented a citizen portal that enables residents to look up near real-time information on their own while also giving the police department insights that can help it be more efficient.
The public portal gives residents an accurate view of crime through a community map. Residents can navigate around the map to see down to the block level where an incident occurred, as well as date, time, and type. Pin views show whether the number of incidents in an area has increased or decreased. When residents fully understand what incidents are occurring in which areas, they can respond to facts rather than speculation. This helps avoid social media-fueled rumors that can stoke unnecessary fear. Alternately, the portal keeps residents aware of a spike in incidents like burglaries so they can keep an eye out for suspicious activity and, in turn, assist police by reporting it.
For more than a decade there have been software tools that can produce raw data files from computer-aided dispatch, records management systems, and crime databases. But the challenge has been in making sense of the raw data in real time and making it actionable so the right resources are deployed at the right times to reduce crime.
To meet today’s demands of rapid dissemination of real-time information, Geissenberger implemented Law Enforcement Analytics, part of the same, cloud-based solution that hosts the citizen portal. The tool helps the department answer real questions about what’s occurring, where it’s occurring, and when, in addition to whether police efforts are working in those areas.
The PPPD has already had success in reducing opioid overdoses with its new software. Staff geofenced an area with a concentration of low-budget motels that had seen an increase in drug-related overdoses.
“When we activate that buffer on the analytics portion of the map, it allows us to eliminate everything outside of it and only focus on those 2,000 feet,” said Geissenberger. “With one click of the button, we were able to identify times of day, days of the week and the locations that showed when and where we’re affected by overdoses most. Then PPPD patrol operations focused on traffic enforcement on that stretch of highway, interdicting drivers leaving those facilities.”
The department’s crime prevention team then got in touch with management at the properties to make sure they were following best practices and not renting rooms to people who lived down the street but were using the motels as a base of operation. Finally, PPPD shared the data with a newly formed strategic enforcement team.
“The advanced analytics along with the three tactics in collaboration drove [overdose] numbers down exponentially,” Geissenberger noted. In this instance and other ways, the tool harnesses data to facilitate intelligence-based decisions on resource allocation and crime trends.
Change the Game
Analytic tools are truly game changers for public safety agencies. Making use of abundant data engages the public, provides departments with actionable insights, and results in data-driven resource allocation. This, in turn, helps solve real problems and increases community safety.