Leveraging Crime Analytics: Miami-Dade County Blue PALMS Program

This is part 1 of 3 of a blog series, 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, innovative ways.

Building Safer Communities in the Digital Age

  • Part 1 of 3 of blog series focusing on how public safety officials leverage crime analytics for safer communities
  • Public safety is closely tied to the economic viability of communities, agencies must leverage data to fight crime in new, innovative ways
  • Miami-Dade County’s Blue PALMS case study highlighted: program leverages crime analytics to reduce recidivism rates, provides stronger leads on cold cases.

Public safety officials are leveraging emerging technologies to transform the way they combat crime. With a variety of threats existing within communities, public safety agencies must now embrace new tactics and strategies to better deploy resources, identify threats and predict crime before incidents occur.

Beyond just the public safety departments, cities are in the midst of a transformation. Demographic shifts, increasing budgetary pressures and across the board challenges to do ‘more with less, ’ has certainly forced innovation and improved resource allocation based on data. Undoubtedly, public safety is beyond just keeping communities safe, public safety is also part of the economic engine powering sustainable growth in communities.

Above all, capitalizing on the promises of technology to combat crime starts with data. In order to witness improvements in public safety, organizations must look at new ways to harness the volumes of data collected and create actionable insights from information.

As always, technology is only just one small part of the equation. Powering the technology is visionary leaders and also the front-line employees who are combating crime on the ground. As a former City Manager and professor once told me, “Never underestimate the power of the street level bureaucrat.” His comments always stuck with me, and with the changing ways we look at public safety, his beliefs could not be more accurate. New technologies provide new insights and awareness for the street level bureaucrat, creating improved decision making and collaboration between field workers and office staff.

Below is a fascinating case study from the Miami-Dade County Police Department, in which Lieutenant Arnold Palmer has lead the charge to create Blue PALMS, a program that helps identify robbery suspects and generate stronger leads for investigators based on historical crime data. The case study below highlights some of the success of Blue PALMS to reduce crime and recidivism rates within the county.

Case Study: Miami Dade Police Department

The Miami-Dade Police Department is one of many agencies leveraging analytics and data to build safer communities in the digital age. Below is an overview from the IBM report, Miami-Dade County Case Study: Using statistical analysis to find similarities in crime patterns helps break cold cases.

The case study identifies how Lieutenant Arnold Palmer has leveraged crime analytics to break cold cases, and catch repeat offenders of crimes. Lieutenant Palmer is currently supervising the Robbery Investigations Section (RIS), and is a former supervisor of the department’s Robbery Intervention Detail (RID). These programs consist of a specialized team of detective’s focused on reduction of repeat of offenders in some of the crime hotspots within the County. Palmer has served 23 years on the force, and the last 10 have been spent in RIS. Certainly, Palmer has witnessed many changes in the way that police officers serve the community.

Miami Dade County is Florida’s largest county, with 2.5 million citizens. The county is also the seventh largest in the United States. As is the case with many counties in Florida, tourism is one of the largest economic drivers. In order to promote tourism officials have placed an emphasis on public safety to maintain the economic viability of their community.

The IBM case study notes, “With tourists spending nearly US $20 billion every year and generating nearly a third of Florida’s sales taxes, it’s hard to overstate the importance of tourism to the region’s economy. So while few of the county’s police officers would likely list economic development in their job description, nearly all grasp the vital link between safe streets and the region’s tourist-driven prosperity.”

After collaborating with local officials, Palmer worked to implement the Blue PALMS solution for Miami-Dade Police Department. Blue PALMS provides stronger leads for the RIS division, and allows the agency to quickly and efficiently allocate resources. Using advanced analytics, Miami-Dade Police is combating robbery cases and reducing street crime. Blue PALMS allows officials to analyze cold robbery cases against historical data to help identify leads and discover previously unknown insights to help in investigations. Below I’ve briefly broken out how Blue PALMS works:

  • Details of the crime are captured by detectives
  • Captured information is placed into Blue PALMS model by staff crime analysts
  • Blue PALMS makes connections with existing historical data, drawing from a case file database
  • The historical data shows distinct crime patterns from criminals
  • Blue PALMS uses an algorithm to generate a list of potential suspects based on match probability and is delivered to investigators

Blue PALMS is allowing officials to focus on reducing incidents of recidivism, improve leads in cases and leverage data in new, efficient ways to combat crimes within the county. Additionally, the police department has witness many benefits in time saved around investigations, employee efficiency and improved allocation of resources.

Miami-Dade County Lessons Learned

The Miami-Dade County case study provides some interesting lessons learned. In addition to the need for strong leadership and vision to leverage crime analytics, below are three additional insights to explore for public safety officials.

1. Leverage Predictive Analytics Models

Predictive analytics is happening in a lot of sectors of government. One of the best, and most prevalent cases comes from the public safety world. Miami-Dade County is not only looking to “be there before it happens,” but also know who committed the crime. This has been one of the core successes in Miami Dade County to fight recidivism in the county.

2. Focus on Collaboration: Remove Data Silos

Removing data silos is a challenge across all sectors. Increasingly, what agencies need to work to create is a shared data infrastructure. Data from the police department could be beneficial to the education or transportation department. And, as we have seen, collaboration and shared infrastructure brings dozens of challenges to agency, but is an essential step for agencies.

3. Identify Quick Wins to Build Support

In Miami, Palmer faced a lot of challenges to implement Blue PALMS. Veteran detectives were skeptical of the program, as Palmer was able to show success stories and examples of how Blue PALMS will create new efficiencies and the real value of the program; more detectives came onboard and were supportive of the project.

Public safety is certainly in a transformational stage, as more agencies leverage emerging technology and view data as a strategic asset to combat crime. Stay tuned to GovLoop and IBM, over the next month; we will be holding several trainings, white papers and blogs surrounding public safety.

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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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