Community Policing and Problem Solving

НазваниеCommunity Policing and Problem Solving
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Tools for the Task

Key Terms and Concepts


Computer-aided dispatch (CAD) Crime analysis

Geographic information system



Geographic profiling

Global Positioning System (GPS)

Hot spot

Mobile computing

Records management system (RMS) Street-level criminology

Learning Objectives

As a result of reading this chapter, the student will:

  • Understand the function of the three basic aids for crime analysis: computer-aided dispatch (CAD), mobile computing, and records man­agement systems (RMS)

  • Know the difference between strategic and tactical crime analysis

  • Comprehend how crime patterns can be geomapped

  • Be able to trace the development, purposes, and methods of CompStat, and understand how it can function today in agencies of all sizes

  • Understand geographic profiling and hot spots

  • Be able to explain Global Positioning Systems (GPS) with regard to using police resources

  • Know how the Internet and an intranet apply to policing and crime analysis

  • Understand the kinds of knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to be a crime analyst

God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.

-Ecclesiastes 7:29


According to the National Commission of Law Observance and Enforcement in 1931 (best known as the Wickersham Commission), the advent of the radio-equipped patrol car brought a new era where “the roving patrol car, fast, efficient, stealthy ... [was] just as liable to be within 60 feet as 3 miles of the crook plying his trade ... who is coming to realize that a few moments may bring them down about him like a swarm of bees—this lightning swift angel of death.”1 And thus was police technology bom, with the introduction of the radio-controlled patrol car hailed as the technological innovation that would turn the tide against criminals.

For more than four decades, the police have been employing myriad technologies to gather, store, and share information. In addition, today’s police officers are on a cell phone, deploy a TASER instead of a six-shot revolver, use a defibrillator from the patrol car trunk to resuscitate heart attack victims, send latent fingerprints to an automated database for matching, use digital photographs and other identification means to see if someone is telling the truth, and utilize many other kinds of databases and tools of the trade (many of which are discussed later in this chapter) that would boggle the minds of such pioneers as August Vollmer and O. W. Wilson. Today technology can help the police to better serve their commu­nities by automating time-consuming tasks, dispatching personnel more efficiently, and improving an agency’s ability to collect and analyze data as well as disseminate it to both internal and external audiences.

This chapter examines the current use of technology as it can be applied to community oriented policing and problem solving (COPPS); specifically, we look at how it can generally assist with analyzing crime information. We begin with a consideration of the function of crime analysis in the problem-solving concept and list several criteria that must be met for analysis to succeed. Then we consider what we call the basic systems of analysis: computer-aided dispatch, mobile computing, and records manage­ment. Next is a section where we briefly distinguish between strategic and tactical crime analysis. Following that is a look at how geomapping is used to reveal crime patterns.

Then we turn to a concept that often represents a higher level of accountability for crime analysis: CompStat. This involves the collection and analysis of a number of types of data, and we provide examples of how CompStat evolved and what its functions are. Then we look at applica­tions of geographic profiling, the mapping of hot spots, and Global Posi­tioning Systems. Next we review how use of both the Internet and an intranet can assist the police in engaging the community as well as in doing analysis, and then we briefly consider how surveys are used in this same regard. After a brief look at counterterrorism, the chapter concludes with a discussion of the kinds of knowledge, skills, and abilities that should be possessed by today’s professional crime analyst.

Crime Analysis

Street-Level Criminology

Integral to the process of problem solving, discussed in Chapter 3, is crime analysis, which may be simply defined as “the collection and analysis of data pertaining to a criminal incident, offender, and target.”2

The importance of analysis in this era of COPPS can be summed up in the following statement: “Community policing can be distinguished from professional policing because it calls for information from domains that had previously been neglected and for more complex analysis of that information.”3 Indeed, the more that important data is collected, analyzed, and related to all components of the crime triangle (victim, offender, and location, as discussed in Chapter 4), the better equipped police will be to develop innovative solutions that include the full spectrum of suppression, intervention, and prevention options.4

It is very important for officers who are engaged in problem solving to understand how, when, where, and why criminal events occur rather than merely responding to them. In this vein we do not mean to say that patrol offi­cers should develop expertise in understanding the mental processes and the­ories that are involved in a person’s choosing to commit crimes (although criminology or psychology courses at a college or university would certainly benefit the problem-solving officer); rather, we are referring to what might be termed street-level criminology. This matter is relatively new to policing at the street level, and it requires that we learn more about crime occurrences through analysis and experimentation with the problem-solving process.

An important note of caution must be stressed, however. Crime analy­sis will only be as good as the data or information that is collected. There are three essential criteria for crime analysis that police agencies should use when designing data collection processes and interpreting the mean­ing of information gleaned from crime analysis5:

  1. Timeliness. Does the pattern or trend presented reflect a current problem or issue, or does it represent a previous situation? Deployment decisions with respect to both prevention and offender apprehension efforts must be based on current information to the extent that is possible.

  2. Relevancy. Do the measures used in the analysis accurately reflect what is intended? For example, whether a pattern is based on calls for service data or incident data can be a very important determination depending on what the police manager is trying to understand.

  3. Reliability. Would the same data, interpreted by different people at different times, lead to the same conclusions?

The Basics: Computer-Aided Dispatch, Mobile Computing, and Records Management

Here we briefly describe the computer-aided dispatch system, mobile com­puting, and records management system. While there are other police

information technologies (several of which are discussed below), these are described in detail because they are the primary technologies for offering core data management capabilities for COPPS, such as data capture and entry; search, retrieval, and display; messaging; and linkages between data elements.6

Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD). Computer-aided dispatch (CAD)

has become an indispensable technology in policing, designed to handle all information related to receiving and dispatching emergency calls for service (CFS). CAD is often the first point of data entry, whether process­ing an emergency 911 CFS or managing an officer-initiated car stop. CAD fully automates the call-taking and dispatching functions; used with auto­mated vehicle location (AVL) systems that track patrol vehicle status, CAD can help to prioritize CFS and make recommendations for unit and resource dispatching based on beats, zones, closest resources, and/or cur­rent unit activities. Some CAD systems can also provide the number and type of prior calls that were made at the location, whether there are exist­ing warrants for residents, or if there are specific hazards related to the location.7 Exhibit 5-1 provides an example of how CAD works.

Mobile Computing. Mobile computing has become the catchall phrase for outfitting an officer’s vehicle or person with the technology that, in effect, allows him or her to be a “mobile office.” Mobile computing is actually com­posed of several law enforcement hardware and software technologies working together to allow officers to access, receive, create, and exchange information wirelessly in the field. Officers can proactively query local, state, and national databases; receive and initiate CAD events; view unit

Computer-Aided Dispatch: How It Works

Assume a 911 call for service (CFS) is received by a police dispatcher. The automatic name index (AND and automatic location information (ALI) come on the CAD screen, and the dispatcher adds additional call details to CAD. The computer assigns a priority rating to the call based on the information entered, checks the validity of the address using the geofile, and searches for historical location information (previous CFS, haz­ardous conditions, weapons, warrants); il then makes recommendations about dispatching available officers and units (cars, foot/bike patrol, etc.) to the scene based on unit proximity and availability. The dispatcher can use a radio or silently dispatch the call to officers via mobile computers (laptops) in their patrol cars. The system constantly updates unit and call status for the dispatcher and officers to view. The computer auto­matically maintains status information, listing all vehicles that work on a specific tour of duty, their status and their current assignment. Response times are documented and reports are captured.

Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, Law Enforcement Tech Guide: How to Plan, Purchase, and Manage Technology (Successfully!) (Washington, D.C.: Author, 2002), p. 248.


Mobile Computing: How It Works

After receiving dispatch information via the mobile laptop computer, the officer responds to the incident, run­ning queries and other inquiries against databases remotely. When the incident is closed, the officer com­pletes a required report via laptop or handheld unit. The report information is electronically forwarded to a supervisor for approval via a wireless communications network. The supeivisor decides whether to approve the report. If not approved, the report is sent back to the officer for corrections; if approved, the report is elec­tronically submitted to the records unit. Once it is received by the records unit, records staff performs quality assurance on the report prior to submitting it electronically to the records management system.

Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, Law Enforcement Tech Guide: How to Plan, Purchase, and Manage Technology (Successfully!) (Washington, D.C.: Author, 2002), p. 248.

status; send e-mail; prepare and file incident reports; issue citations; capture field interview information; access department policies and procedures; research penal codes; and perform many other functions. In sum, they are able to do nearly everything they could do in the station house.8 Exhibit 5-2 discusses how mobile computing works in the field.

Records Management System (RMS). Today a records management

system (RMS) is a key asset to effective policing, offering robust ana­lytical tools and the ability to seamlessly share information, developing complex linkages between myriad data and information, and assisting in effective management strategies. In its simplest form, an RMS captures, maintains, and analyzes all police agency and incident-related informa­tion and is vital for tracking and managing criminal and noncriminal events, investigations, and personnel information. An RMS automates the daily practice of entering, storing, retrieving, retaining, archiving, viewing, and exchanging records, documents, data, information, or files related to persons, vehicles, incidents, arrests, warrants, traffic accidents, citations, pawn tickets, civil process papers, gun registration investigations, property, and evidence.9 Exhibit 5-3 provides an example of how an RMS works.

Together, CAD and RMS can produce most of the data in CompStat (discussed below) with a touch of a button. Otherwise, a data entry clerk or crime analyst must enter the details of every incident reported, arrest effected, summons issued, case cleared, and other such information into a spreadsheet or database to produce the reports.10

Strategic and Tactical Crime Analysis

The collection and analysis of data spanning a long period of time result in strategic crime analysis. This type of analysis is research focused because


Records Management System: How It Works

Officers prepare reports via desktop or mobile computer and submit them electronically to a supervisor, who reviews them. Once the supervisor's approval is given, a report is automatically added to the RMS. If property or evidence has been received, it can be bar coded and linked directly to the recorded data in the RMS. Information stored in the RMS becomes available to agency useis, such as detectives, crime analysis and COPPS divisions, command staff, and others. A public interface is built into most RMS systems to pro­vide information to the community, and appropriate RMS data and information can be shared and exchanged with other justice systems.

Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, Law Enforcement Tech Guide: How to Plan, Purchase, and Manage Technology (Successfully!) (Washington, D.C.: Author, 2002), p. 248.

it includes the use of statistics to make conclusions. This analysis can be useful to departments in terms of forecasting crime trends or estimating future crime based on past trends. (Note: Although we will not delve into it at this point, it should be mentioned that the Microsoft Word Excel func­tion is very useful for making forecasts of crime trends; this task can be accomplished fairly easily.)

While strategic crime analysis involves the review of data spanning generally a year or more, tactical crime analysis uses real-time data span­ning several days. One of its principal uses involves problem identification, or the pattern detection of multiple offenses over a short period of time that have common characteristics, such as the type of crime, modus operandi, and type of weapon used.11 One example of tactical crime analysis that is discussed later in this chapter is geographic profiling, which can be used to suggest the likelihood of where an offender resides based on the pattern of where victims and offenses occur. Linkage analysis involves connecting a suspect to a series of incidents based on commonalities in modus operandi and suspect descriptions as well as known offenders who live in close prox­imity to a given area. For example, many states search their databases of registered sex offenders when a series of sexual offenses is identified.12

Crime Pattern Geomapping

Mapping crime patterns has become increasingly popular among law enforcement agencies and is given high visibility at the federal level, in the media, and among the largest police departments in the nation. A geo­graphic information system (GIS) is an automated system for the cap­ture, storage, retrieval, analysis, and display of spatial data. It has been said that “GIS technology is to geographical analysis what the microscope, the telescope, and computers have been to other sciences.”13

Replacement for Pin Maps. The traditional crime map was a jumbo representation of a jurisdiction with pins stuck in it. These maps were use­ful for showing where crimes occurred, but they had several limitations as well: As they were updated, the prior crime patterns were lost; the maps were static, unable to be manipulated or queried; they could be quite diffi­cult to read when several types of crime were mixed together.14 Conse­quently, during the 1990s pin maps largely gave way to desktop computer mapping, which has now become commonplace and fast, aided by the avail­ability of cheap color printers.15

The importance of geomapping is evidenced by the fact that the National Institute of Justice has established a Crime Mapping Research Center (CMRC) to promote research, evaluation, development, and dissem­ination of GIS technology for criminal justice research and practice. The CMRC holds annual conferences on geomapping to provide researchers and practitioners an opportunity to gain both practical and state-of-the-art information on the use and utility of computerized geomapping. The CMRC Web site address is

GIS for COPPS. GIS has revolutionized the way in which COPPS is con­ducted internationally. This is largely due to the ability of the police to now overlay seemingly diverse types of data that all contribute to a true understanding of a particular problem.

For example, a series of burglaries taking place between the hours of 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. might be the first thing visually displayed on a crime map. This would correspond with the scanning phase of the S.A.R.A. problem-solving process described in Chapter 3. However, getting at the underlying causes of the burglary problem requires deeper probing and innovative thinking. In this case, the crime analyst might overlay the bur­glary incident data with available data about land usage in the area and might then learn that the burglaries are occurring within walking dis­tance of an area high school.17

Although this might seem to be an obvious linkage to many, individu­als often overlook such connections. By visually displaying overlays of various potential data combinations, GIS can play a critical role in jump- starting the analysis process. With the above burglary example, the police manager might begin to develop a theory related to the fact that the bur­glaries might be caused by youths who are truant from school. Looking forward, in addition to now having a large pool of individuals from which investigators might begin seeking information about the incidents, ana­lysts may eventually be led to a collaborative project with the school to develop responses that increase truancy enforcement.18

GIS pattern analysis can also indicate a broader understanding of a problem. For example, assume that a pattern is indicated of disorderly conduct and assaults in an area. An overlay with available liquor stores and bars in the area may present the analyst with some ideas as to what factors might be driving the problem. An additional benefit of GIS is that it

The Crime Mapping Research Center (CMRC) is a national clearinghouse for information about crime analysis and mapping.

U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, Crime Mapping Research Center (Washington, D.C.: Author, 1999).

CRiME MAppiNQ ResearcIh Center

Established to advance applied and basic research involving the analytic mapping of crime



Crime M*ppt*q Research Cemter

is compatible with statistical analyses to further refine an analyst’s exam­ination of a problem; for example, simple statistical analyses may link dis­orderly conduct and assaults in a city to the overall density of alcohol availability or other possibilities.19

Exhibit 5-4 discusses interactive geomapping on the Internet. In a related vein, Figure 5-1 is the initial screen that appears when the user chooses “vehicle and traffic incidents” from the San Diego County Web site, providing information about auto thefts and burglaries as well as traffic accidents. Figure 5-2 shows the Austin, Texas, map viewer; Figure 5-3 provides an example of geomapping of street gang-motivated homicide in Chicago.

Geomapping can greatly increase the accountability of a police agency by visually demonstrating incident patterns for which the agency’s adminis­trators can hold commanding officers accountable over time. A proactive police manager should use GIS and other problem-solving tools described in this chapter to create sound strategic and tactical decisions related to such things as officer deployment, resource allocation, and partnerships with other agencies for sustained crime reductions.20

The CompStat model of the New York Police Department (NYPD), discussed below, institutionalized the use of GIS for departmental plan­ning purposes. The program was such a success that similar versions of CompStat have been implemented in departments across the country.

Interactive Geomapping on the Internet

Following are two examples of interactive geomapping efforts on the Internet in San Diego County, California, and Austin, Texas. Use of such systems not only enables citizens to obtain much more information than was previously available, but it precludes their having to make formal requests for information while freeing crime analysts to devote more time to analyzing crime instead of providing reports to the public.

In 1970, San Diego County's Automated Regional Justice Information System (ARJIS) began allowing all law enforcement agencies in the county to maintain and access crime and arrest information. Recently, however, ARJIS developed the first multiagency interactive geomapping Web site in the nation. Now any­one in the world can query and view certain crime, arrest, call, and traffic data for the county. Searches can be by geographic location (street, neighborhood, police beat, or city) as well as by time of day or day of week. ARJIS serves as a model for making interactive crime maps available to the public on the Internet. People access ARJIS for a variety of purposes: data on crime in their area, a grant proposal, support for a debate on an issue, citizen patrol data and real estate agent information.

Austin, Texas, unveiled a similarly unique approach to geomapping on the Web, tripling the amount of information that was previously available and providing aggregated data by patrol areas, ZIP codes, cen­sus tracts, and neighborhood associations. Citizens can also see crime totals within 500 feet of any user- inputted address.

Source: Adapted from Crime Mapping News [a Police Foundation newsletter] 3 (Summer 2001): 1-6.


Key Elements of CompStat. Unfortunately, today it seems the NYPD crime control model CompStat (computer-driven crime statistics) is often oversimplified to refer to aggressive or data-driven policing, where police commanders are frequently grilled about crimes in their areas of responsibility—and they are even castigated, transferred, or demoted after a lifetime of service if they failed to do something about it. According to police scholar Phyllis McDonald, this perception of CompStat “does a disservice to its management principles and its potential for other jurisdictions.”21 The key elements of CompStat are as follows22:

  • Specific objectives

  • Accurate and timely intelligence

  • Effective tactics

  • Rapid deployment of personnel and resources

  • Relentless follow-up and assessment

Prior to CompStat, NYPD generally had a reporting lag of three to six months for crime statistics—and even then, any meaningful analysis was impossible. Headquarters was not systematically tracking crime activity


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