Predictive Policing Essay

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Crimes are best defined as an act, omission, or neglect that result in breaking the law and is punishable by the courts. In effort to maintain law and order in society many cities have taken the initiative to move toward innovation in crime solving and crime prevention. While traditional methods of policing are still being used, larger cities have incorporated technological advances such as the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to assist with efficiency and effectiveness in crime fighting strategy. One GIS system that is widely used is COMPSTAT.

COMPSTAT is a Geographic Information System that identifies problem areas within a geographic area while formulating crime maps to identify high crime areas. Information Technology vs. Patrol To combat crime in major cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Miami, it is important for law enforcement to develop strategies for crime prevention. Crime prevention is a critical element to execute in effort to increase quality of life for citizens. Law enforcements’ obligation is one of social responsibility. Social responsibility is best defined as the consideration of the greater good for the greatest number.

The main goal of law enforcement is to make the best possible decisions for the safety and well-being of the people. Traditional policing methods involve police patrolling and crime assessments. Patrolling is used to create a police presence on the streets that in theory should deter crime from taking place. Patrolling also provides the opportunity for police to quickly respond to calls in their area. Patrolling is considered a proactive approach to crime fighting as it not only prevents some crimes it makes the community members feel safe.

The use of information technology in law enforcement strategic planning is increasing in major cities. This technology provides statistical data that is used to identify and predict high crime areas. The statistical data allows law enforcement the opportunity to identify crime trends and thus prepare for emerging crime. Law enforcement is now capable of anticipating crimes and therefore, they can issue additional manpower in those identified areas to deter criminal activity before it starts. This reduces randomly selected patrol areas and provides substantial patrols in areas where needed.

Patrolling is a great way of displaying police presence in the community. It makes citizens feel a sense of security. Unfortunately patrolling is not always effective if little to no crime occurs in heavily patrolled areas but occurs in less patrolled areas. This is a misuse of man power and promotes crime due to the lack of police presence. Traditional patrolling generally eliminates strategic planning and foresight. For law enforcement it is critical to plan and prepare for crime in order to prevent it.

The use of information technology such as COMPSTAT in law enforcement provides a way for law enforcement officials to build a strategy for crime fighting and prevention. Technology has provided a business approach to crime fighting with the use of data that can be analyzed to develop strategies and plans of action. Planning has now become increasingly important in crime fighting and prevention. Although the data is not perfect it provides a window into the unknown and allows us to predict and forecast criminal activity. The debate between the use of COMPSTAT technology and traditional patrolling is one that continues.

COMPSTAT enforces that command staff hold the responsibility of crime prevention and reduction with little regard for patrolling officers in the decision making process. While traditional policing or patrolling entrusts decision making based on the street activity. This type of policing is a partnership between law enforcement and citizens. The crossroads is evident as the two different approaches clash. The technology approach favors the command officer‘s decisions, while traditional patrolling favors the leadership and decision making of officers on their individual patrols.

While both patrolling and the use of technology are important elements to efficiently and effectively execute safety measures I believe that traditional patrolling is less effective singularly. Patrolling is most useful when executed in tandem with technological data to identify high priority areas. I view this as an essential element to succeeding in crime prevention. COMPSTAT Information System Information systems collect, process, store and analyze data. These systems are often used to create efficiency and effectiveness in daily operations.

Information systems have four basic functions: input, processing, output, and feedback. Input is captured or collected data for analysis. Data can be captured from multiple sources and compiled for statistical analysis. COMPSTAT’s data is derived from areas such as police reports, crime data, and citizen input. This input of data is important to formulate an accurate analysis of crime trends, patterns, and possible preventative measures. In the processing phase the inputted data is converted and analyzed for later use. This data can be stored, or transferred and used on demand.

The accessibility of this type of data is essential in understanding crime activity and creating crime fighting strategies. The analyzed data and reports are then transferred for review. The next step is for the data to be reviewed by command officers. The command officers are generally the decision makers and they utilize the data to formulate effective crime fighting strategies, allocate resources, and workflow. This enables commanding officers to comply with the COMPSTAT cycle of reviewing, strategizing, and rapid deployment.

Accountability is the platform by which COMPSTAT is based and as such it provides restructuring of the Department’s crime fighting abilities with increased effectiveness in response times. Feedback is the process of organizing and assessing final results. COMPSTAT feedback provides commanding officers an opportunity to assess the results of an executed strategy. The COMPSTAT feedback provides commanding officers with analysis to determine if there is a need for revisions of a given strategy or follow up planning when necessary. Turban, & Volonino (2011) states “A feedback mechanism monitors and controls operations. (p. 8)

Crime and Information Systems The use of Information systems such as COMPSTAT within law enforcement have significantly changed the way policing is executed. Law enforcement is more strategic and based on statistical data which helps in crime fighting and crime prevention efforts. Commanding officers now use this data to assess high crime areas and strategically deploy officers to high crime areas based on trends and recent activity. The increase in patrolling officers assigned to high crime areas provide the ability for rapid response to calls, thus positively impacting response times.

Predictive Policing SWOT Analysis Predictive policing is the wave of the future in creating effective and efficient policing. Strategy and planning are now essential to creating positive law enforcement outcomes. With the proper data and analysis, commanding officers are now able to create movement toward a safer environment for citizens. Strengths Predictive policing provides a vast array of strengths to any Law enforcement agency considering the use of this tool. Strategy, planning and execution are at the core of such predictive policing tools like COMPSTAT.

Implementing this tool will enable law enforcement to effectively utilize its resources and time by providing security and policing efforts in the right places at the right time. This will improve response times and move officers to rapid response levels. The use of COMPSTAT will also help to identify staffing needs as officers must be deployed to various high crime areas, additional officers may be needed for maximum effectiveness. Weaknesses While predictive policing is effective it also has weaknesses. Predictive policing excludes the role of the patrolling officer in the decision making process.

Decisions are made by the commanding officer and should be carried out by the patrol officer. Decisions are no longer at the discretion of the patrolling officer. Giving this level of power to a commanding officer may also lead to a potential abuse of power. Strong ethical leaders should only be placed in the commanding officer role. Opportunity Areas of opportunity in predictive policing are found in the communication between officers and commanding officers. Open communication and exchange of ideas in the decision making process would benefit the effectiveness of the overall strategic planning.

Enforcing a partnership between patrolling officers who work the streets daily and commanding officers who manage daily will build a stronger unit that is likely to achieve more. Interdepartmental relations are critical elements to the overall success of the executed plan. Threats Potential threats to predictive policing are the potential threat of computer hacking to determine or anticipate police strategy. As with any system the threat of hacking or piracy is always evident along with computer outages or loss of data. Measures to safe guard data must be implemented and enforced along with back up data planning.

This will ensure that data can be retrieved and is accessible at all times. Conclusion In conclusion, predictive policing with the use of COMPSTAT will make for a more productive work environment that will yield increased positive outcomes, lower crime rates and better strategic planning along with rapid response. Law enforcement agencies can begin to operate at its maximum efficiency as its workforce is utilized effectively. In short, safety is the main goal, and removing crime and impending criminal activity is a significant element in solving the problem.


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