Law Enforcement Analytics: fighting crime with business intelligence

Published on the 12/08/2010 | Written by Rob Mills

Ask any field officer what his most important weapon is, and chances are he’ll tell you, information. Armed with the right information at the right time, police officers can carry out their duties more quickly, effectively, and safely…

Unfortunately, most law enforcement agencies are bogged down by data stored in multiple siloed systems that are difficult to integrate.

These organisations are, in effect, data rich but information poor. Law enforcement professionals require intelligent, timely, and complete analysis of data from many sources – including criminal histories, incident reports, crime tips, and emergency calls.

Given that more than 80 per cent of the data analysed by law enforcement agencies have a geographical or spatial component, looking at results in map form makes instant and intuitive sense. This is called location intelligence, and in its simplest form, is the marriage of business intelligence and mapping software that attaches spatial relevance to information records.

But simply combining the two disciplines doesn’t immediately solve the problem. Effective law enforcement requires much more than filtering spatially based information. That’s because crime fighting is as much a predictive science as it is reactive; law enforcement agencies need to go beyond the spatial mapping of information and be able to drill down, analyse and even predict criminal activity from the data.

A number of progressive law enforcement agencies around the world are starting to use a combination of location intelligence and predictive analytics; together called law enforcement analytics (LEA).

LEA combines many technologies – including traditional business intelligence concepts such as dashboards and scorecards, ad hoc and predictive analytics, interactive mapping capabilities, data mining, and enterprise search.

This approach is unique not just in its integration of so many technologies, but also in its ability to consolidate, display, and access application data from many source systems in a variety of formats, including dashboards, tabular reports, maps, and even in Google-like searches.

The immediate benefits of LEA include predicting future activity based on past activity; the ability to deploy and track officers to combat specific areas; sending real-time information on past criminal activity to officers in the field; modeling ‘what if’ scenarios based on key variables; and displaying where to deploy resources using a map interface to reduce crime.

To command and field officers alike this marriage of technologies delivers very compelling results – lower crime levels and greater citizen safety.

Early adopters, such as Richmond PD in Virginia, U.S., have seen very conclusive impacts; LEA is credited with a 40 percent drop in major crime, moving the city ten places down the list of America’s most dangerous.

In New Zealand and Australia we’re still in the very early stages of demonstrating and deploying LEA in any meaningful way, but that’s not to say the opportunities are any fewer. The technology will stand or fall on the ability of law enforcement agencies’ willingness to integrate their information systems to be able to take advantage of the inherent intelligence in their data.

Working with partners that have experience and domain expertise is a good first step in the process, but ultimately all effective technologies should only be viewed as enablers of business outcomes.

Rob Mills is the vice president-sales, for Information Builders Australia and New Zealand. He is based in Sydney.

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