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Public Records

Improving safety & trust in community policing through data use

The actions of law enforcement may be under a stronger magnifying lens than ever before, a situation that adds an additional layer of stress to an already high-pressure occupation. However, both law enforcement and the communities they serve have a common goal: They both want a safe community.

Of course, to accomplish this goal, both must work in collaboration and trust to identify challenges, solve problems, and share information.

While creating this atmosphere of mutual support and reliance can be challenging, there are new tools to help both the community and the police to get there. Indeed, law enforcement now has powerful technology tools at its disposal that it can use to nurture this environment of trust and become a strong partner to better empower communities for public safety.

Improving outcomes for effective partnership

Often, when people think of police technology, their thoughts go immediately to the expanded use of body cams. However, the latest data technology available for effective community policing goes far beyond simple body cams. And while body cams can provide a level of transparency that can help build trust, a more effective method involves the widespread use of data analysis.

By leveraging the vast amounts of data available to police — including historical crime data, incident reports, staffing information, and community demographics — law enforcement can engage with predictive policing computer systems to conduct deep analysis that can yield valuable information. For example, algorithmic techniques can delve into large sets of crime and staffing data to more accurately forecast crime, thus ensuring that a sufficient police workforce is being utilized to keep officers and the community safe.

The use of data analysis in this way — both enhancing crime prevention and lowering negative policing incidents — can go a long way to establishing the trust a community may feel toward its law enforcement partners. Also, each individual member of the community is more likely to provide information to a police force that he or she trusts, and this can help lead to an arrest and prevent additional crime. Indeed, everyone is safer when more citizens become the reliable eyes and ears of the police.

The power of real-time data

The ability to receive data in real-time is extremely valuable to law enforcement, especially data they can access across jurisdictions to combat crime — and this is even more critical when it comes to emerging crimes, such as cybercrime. Law enforcement officers and investigators need fast, accurate information to be prepared for any situation, and having access to real-time and historical data improves both officer and community safety.

Fortunately, access to this type of information is now available and is becoming more commonly used by police departments across the country. More importantly, this type of data analysis is already showing real results. For example, a police department in Springfield, Mass., was faced with a challenge — it had a dangerous sexual predator in the community and only minimal information — a first name and the name of a street where he may, or may not, have lived, which had been gathered from social media — upon which to investigate.

Yet, even using just this minimal information, the police accessed the Thomson Reuters Risk & Fraud Solutions search database and were eventually able to identify the perpetrator. The data analysis platform was able to generate a list of more than a dozen names of people in the Springfield area, which allowed a crime analyst to use social media to skillfully confirm the identity of the person who was committing these crimes.

Beyond the use of these vital databases and data analysis tools in their crime prevention and investigation work, police departments can take further steps to improve community relations by, for example, making this data more accessible to community members. Allowing concerned citizens to view, interact and understand the data analysis process used in crime solving, perhaps through community meetings, would greatly help them understand what is happening in their community.

Further, as the data is used to optimize the police workforce and engage the community, it is important to remember that sharing key data with the right people within the department, the community, and even outside the community will enhance police efforts everywhere.

The future of community policing

Beyond today’s advanced data analysis lies a future for community policing that may have been unimaginable just a few years ago. Many communities across the country and the world are embracing “smart city” technology that can build on existing data analysis and greatly improve contact with victims and witnesses, reduce complaints, and allow police officers to spend more time on positive community interactions.

These innovations could use the reams of data being collected by street-level cameras, cell phones, and other surveillance systems to allow police — with the aid of artificial intelligence-driven data analysis —to more quickly detect crimes, suspects, and evidence, reducing time spent following labor-intensive threads of investigations that lead nowhere.

With the assistance of modern public records technology and deep-dive data analysis, law enforcement all over the country can rapidly and reliably access phone records, search for license plates, and provide real-time arrest and incarceration information. And that’s just the beginning of all that is possible.

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