Project of the Week: Memphis PD – Fighting Crime with Analytics!

This week’s Project of the Week is brought to you by one of GovLoop’s 2011 Major Partners, IBM. As the year continues they will be present on GovLoop to help you with any Analytics questions you may have.

Dr. GovLoop recently caught up with Nathan Greenhut of IBM about how they’ve been of great assistance to the Memphis Police Department (MPD).

What are some key challenges that the Memphis Police Department (MPD) faced prior to implementing Blue CRUSH?

In the City of Memphis, violent crime was increasing at a rate of 2.5% which caused citizens to become concerned. During this time, the police department was facing pay freezes and shrinking budgets. Not only were resources stretched thin, but officers were spending hours in the office searching for crime related information buried in spreadsheets and paper files. Without a more efficient way to increase the overall effectiveness, the department officials struggled to predict, track and respond swiftly to the unfolding crime or even optimize their limited resources and funds.

Why did MPD choose this system?

MPD used predictive analytics software to improve its overall operations by considerably reducing crime without a proportional increase in staff, all while expanding its territory. The systems allows MPD to:

  • Identify crime “hot spots” and focus police resources at the “hottest” locations, which in turn has helped lower crime rates.
  • Provides up-to-date crime statistics to officers on the street as well as the media.
  • Enables creation of color-coded maps to visualize crime patterns.
  • Optimizes police resources by avoiding inefficient overtime details.
  • Helps organized crime units and task forces to develop plans for special actions and interventions.
  • Improve the reaction time to crimes by positioning officers at the right place at the right time.

What is Blue CRUSH?

Since 2001, officers have been filling out reports at crime scenes using hand-held devices, making it easy to move data into an online records management system. At the center of the department’s information-based crime initiative is a team of about two dozen intelligence analysts stationed at the Department’s Real Time Crime Center, a state-of-the-art crime monitoring and analysis hub that opened in 2008. Working in shifts around the clock, the center’s intel analysts sift through a huge digital library of crime records and police reports going back nearly a decade.

The idea started in 2005, when the Memphis Police Department teamed up with the University of Memphis and Project Safe Neighborhoods to test the concept of applying statistical analysis to crime fighting called Operation Blue CRUSH (Crime Reduction Utilizing Statistical History). The pilot program tapped the power of statistics and predictive analytics software as well as geographic information systems to zero in on where and when crimes were occurring — and likely to hit next — and harness that information to better deploy officers on the street. Since then, Operation Blue CRUSH has become an indispensable tool for the Memphis Police, helping patrol officers as well as members of state and federal agencies push down crime rates in Memphis and surrounding communities, a metropolitan area of 1.2 million people.

How does Blue CRUSH work?

If you are criminal, Memphis is not the place to be. This forward-thinking police department dramatically decreased criminal activity and increased conviction rates when it implemented an analytics solution with predictive modeling capabilities. With it, the department has unparalleled insight and visibility into criminal activity and crime trends as they are happening. Police have gained a huge advantage; specifically, the ability to identify and predict future crime hot spots. As such, the department can change tactics and redirect patrol resources as needed, to prevent crimes before they happen and catch more criminals in the act. For example, by identifying an increase in burglaries in a particular neighborhood, the department can – on short notice – dispatch officers to that area, on a particular day, at specific times. The solution also helps the department identify factors that may contribute to future crimes, such as abandoned housing. MPD routinely uses cross-tabs and frequency functions to uncover trends and pinpoint ‘hot spots’ of criminal activity. The intelligence that analysts pull gives officers a big advantage on the streets. In particular, it helps precincts focus patrols on neighborhoods and even street corners where extra manpower and resources are likely to pay off with arrests or deterrence. For example, data can tell officers where to position surveillance cameras and when to monitor them.

How has the deployment of predictive analytics improved the city of Memphis?

Overall improvement in the ability to allocate police resources in a budget-constrained fiscal environment; along with:

  • 30% reduction in serious crime overall, including a 36.8% reduction in crime in one targeted area
  • 15% reduction in violent crime
  • 4x increase in the share of cases solved in the MPD’s Felony Assault Unit (FAU), from 16 percent to nearly 70 percent

What feedback have you received from MPD?

“We’re catching this immediately and we’re doing it every day. On short notice, we’re able to shift officers to a particular ward, on a particular day, right down to the shift level. It’s a bit like a chess match and it’s enabling us to make arrests we never could have before.”

– Larry Godwin, Director of Police Services, Memphis Police Department

“It gives us a better idea of what type of crimes are occurring and when and where they are happening, that in turn gives us a better idea of how to utilize our manpower and deploy other resources in our department.”

– Barbara Adams, a Memphis Police officer

Have any other police departments implemented a similar platform?

There are a number of police departments worldwide using a similar platform. For example, the Richmond Police Department turned to IBM to deploy a powerful predictive analytics tool that brings data from multiple sources into one data warehouse; discovers hidden relationships in the data; and automatically generates crime forecasts.

For more information about IBM’s efforts to help MPD crack down on crime by using analytics please go to their website or ask them in the GovLoop group “Analytics to Outcomes“.

Also, be sure to check out how analytics are helping foster kids and families in Alameda County.

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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