Crime analytics has many applications, from uncovering indicators of violence, to identifying and building cases against the most dangerous offenders. It empowers a data-driven justice system and helps identify the most effective use of finite resources to maximize public safety.
Crime Strategies Units & Crime Analysis
The District Attorney’s Office in the Bronx, NY is expanding its Crime Strategies Bureau (CSB) to gain a deeper understanding of societal problems that lead to violence in the area. The CSB, which serves as a hub for crime intelligence and analysis, is supplementing its current police and prosecution dataset with information from the U.S. census, public health agencies, and other open data sources to build more complex profiles of violent crime offenders. Who are they? Why are they committing violent crimes? Do they have underlying mental health or substance abuse problems? What types of social services can help curb criminal behavior? By painting a more complete picture of these offenders, the CSB aims to target violent crime at its roots and reduce reoffending.
The District Attorney’s Office in Yolo County, CA, is creating a specialized Crime Strategies Unit that centralizes criminal intelligence in order to enhance information-sharing and collaboration between law enforcement agencies. Personnel are identifying organizations and individuals responsible for driving the major categories of crime in the County. Designated individuals are collecting, analyzing, and sharing data/intelligence from law enforcement agencies in Yolo and surrounding counties through Microsoft SQL, which can integrate data from diverse case management systems. The platform’s machine-learning capabilities will take historic crime data to create map-based visualizations that can help identify areas for crime deterrence and prevention.
Social Network Analysis
Several sites are increasing their use of social network analysis (SNA) — a method of analyzing crime through people’s relationships and interactions. In Nassau County, NY, crime analysts are collaborating with a community prosecution program in the village of Hempstead, one of the jurisdiction’s most violent areas. For each arrest there, the analysts are conducting SNA to help determine whether particular offenders should be prioritized for prosecution or debriefed to gather intelligence on “bigger fish'' criminals. Leveraging records from the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office, as well as the Hempstead and county police departments, the analysts are also determining crime trends, intensity, and hotspots.
Baton Rouge, LA is utilizing SNA to uncover major drug traffickers and suppliers in the parish. Researchers from Louisiana State University are integrating data from a wide variety of sources — including criminal and narcotic incident reports, overdose autopsy reports, EMS Narcan distributions, and qualitative intelligence from law enforcement, victims, and offenders — to map connections between overdose victims, known drug traffickers, and other individuals fueling the opioid epidemic. So far, SNA has not revealed many links between overdose victims and known drug suppliers, suggesting that the victims are purchasing drugs from alternative sources. Milwaukee, WI is also undertaking SNA to combat opioid abuse. The IPS team there is using the method not only to suppress high-profile drug dealers but to intervene with opioid user networks through local treatment providers.
The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office in Newark, NJ has taken a different approach to analyzing social networks. Instead of using police and prosecution records as the primary source of intelligence, the newly-created Special Prosecution Unit reviews social media accounts of individuals connected to violent crime. Through this process, they uncover linkages between seemingly-unrelated offenders through gang affiliation hashtags, photos and videos, and social media usernames. Social media analysis also bolsters prosecutors’ arguments in court. In many cases, for example, digital evidence enables prosecutors to establish the critical nexus between the offenders’ actions and their intent, resulting in more guilty pleas and convictions.
Detroit, MI and Worcester County, MA are two jurisdictions using hotspot mapping, an analytical technique that identifies areas for targeting crime reduction efforts and resources, to combat the opioid crisis. In Detroit, Michigan State University researchers are analyzing data from police records and the Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program (ODMAP) to identify areas in the city where overdoses, illegal drug activity, and violent crime overlap. These opioid hotspots are identified with precision — down to specific addresses, intersections, and street-block segments — to ensure that resources are being deployed where they’re needed the most.
In Worcester County, Fitchburg State University researchers are also overlaying crime and overdose datasets to identify and target opioid hotspots. While every fatal overdose in Worcester County is treated as a potential homicide scene, hotspot identification may enable the team to expand investigations in an effort to identify larger-scale distribution networks.
Identifying Crime Drivers
The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office in Cleveland, OH, is leveraging its Crime Strategies Unit (CSU) to identify and target repeat offenders. In collaboration with the Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education at Case Western Reserve University, CSU analysts are reviewing current research and law enforcement data and performing statistical regressions to develop a standardized set of criteria for identifying the area’s most violent criminals. This new system will expand and improve on the traditional data sources used by risk assessments — like criminal histories — to provide a comprehensive tool that will enable criminal justice professionals to make more objective decisions.
The District Attorney’s Office in Rockdale County, GA is spearheading the Comprehensive Homicide Initiative to identify the area’s most violent domestic violence offenders. An independent researcher will work closely with a dedicated Domestic Violence prosecutor and advocate to collect and analyze demographics, the nature of criminal incidents, case dispositions, and probation conditions. This data will enable the team to develop an enhanced investigation process and pinpoint lethality indicators for domestic violence offenders. Prosecutors will be able to make more informed decisions regarding bond conditions, case preparation, and conditions for post-conviction — increasing offender accountability while elevating the safety of victims.
Leveraging NIBIN Data
To help solve the rising number of violent crimes involving firearms in Phoenix, AZ, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office (MCAO) has begun purchasing equipment to match shell casings in the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network (NIBIN) database. This process is similar to matching fingerprints from crime scenes, and enables law enforcement to identify those who commit serial gun violence, often across jurisdictional lines. Ultimately, the MCAO believes that linking seemingly unrelated crime scenes will improve the number of complex multi-defendant, multi-incident, and multi-agency cases submitted to their office.
Through IPS, the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office in Indianapolis, IN has hired a specialized National Integrated Ballistics Information Network (NIBIN) Prosecutor to assist detectives in investigating and prosecuting unsolved gun crimes. The dedicated attorney relies on the Indianapolis-Marion County Forensic Services Agency to enter images of shell casing impressions into the NIBIN database in order to determine when multiple shell casings were fired from the same weapon. Once the database automates the comparison process, it alerts law enforcement to possible ballistic matches between multiple crime scenes. Officers then use NIBIN leads to help identify the face behind the gun.