Data science and its methods of analysis and reporting have become an essential part of everyday activities in various organizations of the public and private sectors. While the police have already implemented this approach, it is necessary to use it to maximum capacity. This issue has become even more topical recently as the discussions on police funding and its effectiveness became more active.
The agency to implement this strategy of establishing data-driven research and policy is the Dallas Police Department. The department already has several units that deal with analyzing data and forecasting. They are the Crime Analysis Unit, the Dallas Fusion Center, the Criminal Justice Unit, and the Real-Time Crime Center, which are currently being united into a new Intelligence Led Policing Division (Hall, 2020). However, according to the Dallas Police Violent Crime Reduction Plan (Hall, 2020), the newly established division’s main objectives are mainly improving the coordination and sharing of information.
The main objective of the proposed approach is to enhance the effectiveness of the analysis and research. While it is vital to ensure the relay of information, “developing and maintaining a strong analytical capacity within police departments” (Braga, 2015, p. 20) is of much stronger importance. The data analysis allows to identify high-risk situations, present patterns of possible crimes, underlying conditions, and dynamics of crime. This will require hiring civilian crime analysts, as proposed by the Violent Crime Reduction Plan (Hall, 2020), and training police officers and partnering with researchers.
Investing in the quality of the research and introducing cutting-edge methods of data-based prediction will potentially allow improving the existing situation when the number of police officers measures police effectiveness. Braga states, “Crime problems need to be deconstructed through analysis, and responses need to be tailored to underlying conditions and local community needs” (Braga, 2015, p. 21). Therefore, it is vital to develop a new approach aimed at creating opportunities for developing a more effective system of police monitoring and response. With precise forecasts, data profiles, and mapping technologies, it would be easier to identify the risk zones and despatch responders or patrolling officers accordingly.
The proposed strategy fits into the framework of environmental criminology that deals with the analysis of crime event patterns. This theory is concentrated on preventing crimes to occur by forecasting possible scenarios based on various data, especially spatial information. As Wotley and Townsley (2016) note, “environmental criminologists look for crime patters and seek to explain them in terms of environmental influences” (p. 1). Using new technologies and collaborating with specialists can be perceived as a new stage of crime pattern analysis.
As different types of crime have a tendency to cluster in space, the common practice of defining crime hotspots have been used by the police. However, having a highly developed research center would allow to take into account a number of issues that environmental criminologists have been discussing over the last years. For instance, it would allow to make hotspots areas more precise that might result in even more effective resource allocation.
Moreover, it would be useful to acknowledge other research trends that have been emerging recently. Some of them are the offender mobility research on crime trips and movements, geographic profiling, sexual assault patterns. Finally, having a stronger concentration on data-based analysis would allow to bring development in the police work organization that is now focused on responding and arresting. The shift from “handling incidents to addressing problems” (Wotley & Townsley, 2016, p. 252) would improve the agency’s image and redefine the meaning of policing. This factor is important nowadays as ever, as the Dallas Police Department is heavily criticized for being ineffective.
The implementation of a data-based analysis approach will likely prevent numerous crimes and improve the effectiveness of crime-solving. It would allow to change the existing system of crime reduction and facilitating available police resources. Instead of expanding the police force, the strategy is to create conditions for a more tactical approach that is based on tangible metrics and insights and leads to better outcomes in crime rates and crime detection rates.
Braga, A.A. (2015). Crime and policing revisited. U.S. Department of Justice.
Hall, R. (2020). Violent crime reduction plan. Dallas Police Department.
Wortley, R., & Townsley, M. (Eds.). (2016). Environmental criminology and crime analysis. Routledge.