We are lucky to be living in the digital age. We are all connected to an abundance of "data at our fingertips" that makes us smarter and more efficient.
Policing agencies are no different. Data-driven technologies deployed by police organizations can help officers better understand the communities they serve and improve the law enforcement profession through greater efficiency, effectiveness, and transparency.
While efficiency and effectiveness are obvious benefits to police organizations, a focus on transparency is key to successful data-driven policing. While law enforcement access to data can improve officer safety, align personnel deployment, and improve crime clearance, it can also seem quite threatening to our privacy and civil liberties, leading to fears of profiling and inequitable enforcement. These fears can be alleviated when we make transparency a foundational tenant of our data-driven policing model.
While the loss of civil liberties through police access to data is what has gotten all the media play, the reality is that data-driven policing can strengthen community bonds.
While the loss of civil liberties through police access to data is what has gotten all the media play, the reality is that data-driven policing can strengthen community bonds. Data analysis allows police agencies to understand the social conditions that underpin a city’s crime patterns and to develop strategies that improve the relationship between the community and the police. The right data at the right time can be the catalyst to creating mentoring programs for at-risk youth, organizing orientation programs for immigrant communities, or joining community fundraising efforts.
So, what three steps can law enforcement agencies take today to proactively improve community relations through a data driven approach?
1. Give Citizens Access to Incident Data
Access to incident data builds trust and increases transparency. When someone is moving to a community and wants to know about crime, let them view it, interact with it, and understand it. With a citizen portal, residents can look up data on their own – right down to the block level where an incident has occurred. A portal empowers citizens with an understanding of what is happening in their community. Citizen awareness can lead to citizen advocacy – if a rash of auto break-ins is occurring in a residential area and the citizens are aware of it, they can become the eyes and ears police need to end the crime spree.
2. Use Data to Reduce Crime and Assign Personnel
Assigning police officers to the right locations at the right times can have a dramatic impact on the communities they serve. Operationalizing raw data to actionable intelligence is key to ensuring the community gets the best service the police have to offer. Analytical tools help police agencies answer real questions about what types of crimes are occurring, where they are occurring, and when they are occurring, allowing commanders to better deploy resources and analyze whether police efforts are making a difference.
3. Bring the Right Data to the Right People
Too much data creates noise and distracts us from what is relevant and actionable. But everyone needs data. Detectives need it to help them solve crime, analysts need it to connect incidents to each other, commanders need it to ensure they are making the best use of their resources and personnel, and citizens need it to understand what is happening in their community. Another key to great data-driven policing is creating a role-based structure that brings relevant data to the proper role in your police organization.
York Regional Police – Transparency in Action
York Regional Police (YRP), headquartered in Ontario, Canada, leverages data and analytics solutions for law enforcement to build a safer community. The agency also recognizes the importance of being transparent. Citizens have self-service access to community crime data, detectives are gaining efficiency in solving crime, and personnel across the organization are recognizing the true value of the data. YRP set out on their data-driven policing journey with the admirable goal of creating a safer community in which to live, to work, and to play.