The Public Safety Journey into Analytics: NYPD Case Study

This is part 2 of 3 of a blog series on Smarter Cities: Building Safer Communities in the Digital Age. This series explores how analytics has empowered the street level bureaucrat, redefining the way public safety officials keep communities safe. Across the country, public safety organizations have leveraged crime analytics to improve efficiencies, connect workers and leverage data in new ways.

Building Safer Communities in the Digital Age

  • Part 2 of 3 of a blog series focusing on how public safety officials leverage crime analytics for safer communities
  • The first post in the series focused on Miami-Dade County’s Blue PALM program. This case study highlighted how Miami-Dade County is leveraging crime analytics to reduce recidivism rates and provide stronger leads on cold cases.

The New York Police Department is the largest municipal police force in the U.S. with a uniformed strength of approximately 34,500 officers. Responsible for ensuring the safety of the city’s over 8 million residents, the agency is constantly looking for ways to effectively utilize its human resources, information and law enforcement processes.

Good police work depends on good information. An effective police force relies on solid and timely information to prevent, respond to and prevent crime. The NYPD has been leading the charge in utilizing data-driven law enforcement tactics to produce dramatic reductions in crime incidence. In the last several years, the NYPD has been using advanced data storage technology, data analytics, GIS and visualization tools to innovate their law enforcement strategies and improve public safety.

The public safety journey into analytics begins with understanding the flow of crime data into the police system. The law enforcement system generates diverse streams of information on a crime from the point of detection, throughout the investigation up to and including the closure of the case. These streams of information are generated from the initial 911 call, the dispatch of police, ongoing reporting throughout investigation and various other perspectives of the incident. To see an entire crime story, detectives and investigators need a way to pull together information streams, which were previously stored in departmentalized silos.

The combination of technology and process implementation formed an effective solution for the NYPD to obtain a timely and full picture of crime incidents. Below is a technology breakdown of how IBM aided the NYPD in utilizing analytics in public safety.

Data Storage

The NYPD Crime Information Warehouse (CIW) is the foundation of the organization’s analytic capabilities. The CIW pulls data from various standalone systems, transforms it into a consistent format and consolidates the data into one place. Prior to CIW, the NYPD faced major challenges sharing data because its individual police departments maintain their own systems of data collection and storage. The CIW provides a single-point access for officers to see integrated crime information in real-time, enabling officers to easily pinpoint the key information needed to resolve cases faster.


Having a single data repository for crime data empowers the NYPD to do far more with its information inventory. The CIW coupled with business intelligence software allows officers to spot emerging trends and make informed enforcement decisions for crime prevention. Analytic capabilities allow the NYPD to examine crime across a broad size spectrum—from individual cases to bigger picture, citywide crime trends.

GIS Mapping and Visualization

The police force utilizes geographic information systems (GIS) mapping and visualization tools to further capitalize on the CIW and analytic capabilities. These tools enable the force to visually examine aggregated crime data across the city or in a certain neighborhood. Officers can then plan their enforcement activities proactively to prevent crime where it’s most likely to recur.

Key to the employment of analytics in the NYPD’s transformed approach to crime control has been the process design and governance around the use of analytic technology. Below are some key steps the NYPD leadership took, with guidance from IBM, to combine analytics and technological tools with law enforcement process design:

  • Articulate the organizational mission: “Enforce the laws, preserve peace, reduce fear and provide for a safe environment.”
  • Define the specific business challenge: Due to siloed data systems across individual police departments, officers were spending a lot of time tracking down information.
  • Evaluate existing business practices and data infrastructure: Challenges exist in information sharing processes due to separated data systems.
  • Plan and implement a solution: Crime Information Warehouse coupled with business intelligence, GIS and visualization tools enabled officers to spend more time evaluating cases and crime trends.
  • Follow-up and assessment: Positive feedback from officers and identified reduction in crime statistics.

These key considerations outline how other organizations can build their business case around public safety analytics. The NYPD exemplifies how the combination of the right technology and process design can have transformative effects on business as usual. With the aid of analytics officers are able to solidify gut feelings and hunches on a crime based on robust integrated information, patterns and statistics available. With advanced and real-time access to its own information, the NYPD is better equipped to do its job, which has led to positive ripple effects on the safety and well-being of New York City residents.

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The IBM Analytics Solution Center (ASC) is part of a network of global analytics centers that provides clients with the analytics expertise to help them solve their toughest business problems. Check out their Analytics to Outcomes group on GovLoop.

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