Technology puts crime program on the map
A year and a half after revamping its law enforcement strategy, Minneapolis is reporting reduced crime, fewer citizen complaints and higher officer morale in its police department. Called CODEFOR (Computer Optimized Deployment Focus on Results), the program encourages officers to develop and implement crime-stopping solutions; places accountability with officers and supervisors; and makes use of mapping technology to identify crime trends and to improve efficiency in deploying officers.
Modeled after similar programs in New York and New Orleans, CODEFOR was implemented in early 1998. The Minneapolis Police Department reports that, since then, the number of Part I crimes (e.g., homicide, robbery, aggravated assault, rape) in the city has dropped steadily: 16 percent from 1997 through 1998, and 11 percent from 1998 through June 1999.
The police department attributes much of the program’s success to Minneapolis’s implementation of a GIS. Provided by MapInfo, Troy, N.Y., the system allows the department to map trends and provide current information to all of its precincts and street officers.
When police reports are typed into the department’s records management system, the data is automatically geocoded and plotted on a map. Each crime is associated with a different symbol (for example, drug crimes are plotted with a syringe), and officers can view the map at any time to analyze criminal activity. Department leaders audit the reports to ensure that information is entered properly.
Because the GIS allows the department to update its maps with information from all precincts, it gives the city the means to plan cooperative solutions to its crime problems. For instance, every Thursday, precinct commanders, special unit leaders and investigators meet to analyze criminal patterns and identify the areas of the city that are most vulnerable to crime. Different parts of the city map are displayed during the meetings to accompany detailed presentations and discussions.
In addition to producing a visual record of statistics and trends, Minneapolis’s mapping has affected personnel efficiencies. Earlier this year, police were able to identify a high-risk area for auto thefts using the GIS. Based on what they saw, commanders were able to deploy the appropriate resources to stop the thefts.
“[Prior to implementing the system], we weren’t looking at the big picture of how all the crime in the city fit together,” says Police Lt. Mike Martin. “And we weren’t sharing information among the precincts.”
Now, not only is the GIS crossing precinct barriers, it is promoting a new sense of accountability. Because the information is on display throughout the entire department, precinct commanders are more attentive to performance in their areas, Martin explains. Cooperation and efficiency, supported by technology, have turned CODEFOR into one of Minneapolis’s best practices. “Our department now runs like a business, where the bottom line is reducing crime,” Martin says. “We have the same officers, the same supervisors, and the same administration. The only thing that has changed is how we do business.”