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How Data Solves Crime and Keeps Officers Safer

This recent GovLoop article explored how public safety agencies are benefiting from connecting and using data to create safer communities. Departments such as the Pinellas Park Police Department in Florida are using data analytics to build community trust, reduce crime, and make smarter decisions.

Other types of government agencies and services typically take top billing when it comes to data analytics, but using data is critically important in the public safety arena. When public safety agencies have siloed information, they may not have the full picture, in real time, of events on the scene. Looking at individual crimes in isolation can also impede a culprit’s arrest.

Actionable insights are helping public safety agencies and their partners across the country close cases, identify bodies, and reduce fatal overdoses. Here are some examples.

Case Closed

The city of Clovis, in Fresno County, California, experienced an unusual rash of burglaries, including dozens of vehicle break-ins. Officers and crime analysts collected information from victims including stolen items, the time of day, location, security camera footage, and descriptions of the getaway vehicle.

By entering these theft details into the police department’s public safety software system, crime analysts determined the cases were likely connected, indicating a serial burglar.

“Being able to connect cases is huge for law enforcement,” Sergeant Jim Munro of the Clovis Police Department said in this PoliceMag article. “When you’re able to connect cases not only can you potentially identify a suspect, but you can also start developing a crime pattern. Once a crime pattern is established, the likelihood of solving the case is much higher. We use our software on a daily basis to look at crime patterns and determine the best course of action.”

By connecting the burglary cases, the Clovis PD was able to identify the suspect and his vehicle. The arrest and subsequent conviction resulted in 40 cases being closed through connecting data and the recovery of stolen property.

Quick ID

When officials can’t identify a body, they use programs to search nationwide databases such as Forensic Filer and TLOxp Transunion in hopes of finding a hit. This is not only costly but can take months and doesn’t always lead to a positive identification.

In Kankakee County, Illinois, the Sheriff’s Office dealt with a body that had been underwater long enough for fingerprints to be impossible. With basic information from the corpse, authorities searched a national missing person’s database with no results. At the morgue, an examiner discovered a rose tattoo on the body’s neck. Using the scars, marks and tattoos module inside the corrections system software, officials generated a list of 68 current and former inmates who had neck tattoos. Based on the location of the tattoo on the unidentified man’s body, the list of possible matches became eight. By examining the photos of these eight individuals with neck tattoos, investigators were able to match the unidentified man’s tattoo to his booking photo found in the corrections system.

Without the information in the software, identifying the body was not a certainty. “There’s no way we would have found out who this man was without our public safety software,” Robert Gessner, the county coroner, said.

Saving Lives

Macomb County, located just north of Detroit, has the highest rate of overdose deaths in the state of Michigan, averaging more than one person per day. Dispatchers, police officers, and first responders in the county are all involved in some way, from answering calls to administering naloxone (NARCAN) to transporting patients and making arrests.

The Macomb County Sheriff’s Communication Center connects these partners to keep responders and the community safe. The center’s use of dispatch software not only provides enhanced insight for responder safety; it enables responders to better save lives.

For example, many times individuals will call 911 to report that an individual is not breathing, while omitting any mention of drug use. The caller doesn’t want to get into trouble, but first responders need to know if drugs are involved. That information is necessary for the correct, lifesaving, response.

The county’s computer-aided dispatch (CAD) solution allows dispatchers, as soon as they have an address, to view prior history of all incidents, including drug activity, that has occurred at that location. In addition, dispatchers can create alerts on known locations and persons, for example, noting where individuals have assaulted responders in the past. Knowing these things can prepare responders, better ensuring their safety.

Automation

Modern technology that contributes to these successes can also create efficiencies, save budgets, and increase officer safety. Automating the ticketing process, for example, directly impacts officer roadside safety. Electronically entering multiple violations into one ticket on the spot not only gets officers back into their vehicles quicker; it eliminates legibility problems back at the office.

What’s even better is when public safety and courts solutions are integrated, so that agencies can continuously share information throughout the entire cycle.

When shared and used, public safety data and insights can contribute to the long-term health and livability of communities nationwide.

Meredith Trimble is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. She is a former municipal official and Town Council Acting Chair, who focused on strategic planning, annual budgeting, and bonded infrastructure projects. Her government experience also includes posts in both federal and state-level executive branch agencies: Associate Editor of the U.S. Federal Election Commission’s FEC Record; and Director of Education for the CT Office of State Ethics. In her current role as a Senior Content Specialist with Tyler Technologies, Inc., she writes content to help empower those who serve the public. Her current focus is to help facilitate data-enabled organizations as well as to create connections between governments and those they serve. You can read her posts here.

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