High-tech crime fighting
Project: Crime prediction and prevention
Jurisdiction: Richmond, Va.
Agency: Police Department
Vendor: Chicago-based SPSS; New York-based Information Builders; Redlands, Calif.-based ESRI; Rochester, N.Y.-based Pictometry International; New York-based iWay Software
Richmond, Va.’s, Police Department has created a software application that can predict the likelihood of crimes occurring based on variables such as time of day, weather and the coincidence of public events, and sometimes prevent crimes. The department’s IT team built the system by combining business intelligence (BI), predictive analysis and geographic information system (GIS) technologies to examine arrest records, motives and types of crimes.
The system has evolved steadily since 2002, when the department purchased software from Chicago-based SPSS that mined predictable patterns of behavior. Next, the city purchased BI software from New York-based Information Builders, GIS mapping software from Redlands, Calif.-based ESRI, aerial photos from Rochester, N.Y.-based Pictometry International, and integration software from New York-based iWay Software to combine all the information into one database.
The system extracts data from the department’s computer-aided dispatch system, 911 system and a records management system. BI dashboards combine reports, graphs, maps and photos to summarize crime data, some dating back 15 years. GIS displays aerial photos and maps of the city that reveal precise images of neighborhoods, streets, houses and other geographic details.
Authorized users access the system at the police station or using computers in their patrol vehicles. Once an officer enters a crime report, it is added to the system almost instantly. Section commanders are notified when thresholds are reached so they know when to deploy more officers or focus on certain areas.
Now, rather than waiting until the end of the month for reports, police officers receive daily reports of problem areas. Shift supervisors receive similar reports, along with notifications as crime patterns develop during the shift. Commanders receive even more detailed reports to examine violent crime in their areas, including rape, robbery and homicide.
By directing officers to potentially problematic areas of the city, Richmond has lowered the number of robberies in the past year. During the first three months of 2007, Richmond police arrested 16 fugitives and confiscated 18 guns based on the system’s guidance. In the first week of May, the city had no homicides, compared with three homicides in the same week in 2006. Crime analysts attribute the success rate, in part, to moving officers around based on the calculated probability of shooting incidents.