Establishing an Analytics Culture in Public Safety
The explosion of big data provides a vast new resource that can transform organizations, helping them build smarter systems that drive economic growth, sustainable development and societal progress.
by Ryan Prox
The explosion of big data provides a vast new resource that can transform organizations, helping them build smarter systems that drive economic growth, sustainable development and societal progress.
In the world of public safety, big data comprises existing data often stored in disparate databases, including a wide range of sources, from arrest records to court documents and mug shots. Much of it is also text-based documents, police reports, and field reports to name a few. For many agencies, it can be difficult to make sense of this data in a meaningful way that can help solve and even prevent crime. Combined with the near infinite volumes of new data sources from the Web and mobile applications, this challenge is compounded further.
Sometimes lost in the big data discussion, especially in public safety circles, is the challenge of overcoming organizational cultural challenges in employing analytics as part of day-to-day operations. Renowned criminologist Jerry Ratcliffe suggests in his article, “Integrated Intelligence and Crime Analysis,” that while analytical technology and analysts can be introduced into the organizational structure of police departments, the receptiveness of police departments to assimilate this information may be difficult.
Despite well-documented cases of this mindset being prevalent in some police organizations, the Vancouver Police Department did not encounter the issues reported by Ratcliffe.
Mindful of these challenges, the Vancouver PD approached the integration of analytics into its policing model in a way that was sensitive to both police experiential contributions, and the adoption of technology. The end goal: enhance existing programs rather than replace them.
Since deploying an analytics-led approach to policing in 2008 with IBM and Esri technology, the City of Vancouver has seen property crime rates drop city-wide per 1,000 residents by 24 percent, and violent crime rates decrease by nine percent from 2007 to 2011.
These results did not happen immediately. As Herb Brooks, the legendary hockey coach once said, “Great moments are born from great opportunity.” For the Vancouver PD, that opportunity was the 2010 Winter Olympics, an event with a significant focus on security and public safety. This “perfect storm” in terms of necessity and resources helped the Department advance and develop the value of an analytics-driven approach to policing.
From the outset, the issue was never the availability of data, but rather the integration of data from disparate sources and silos. Without a common data repository, officers lacked a comprehensive view of criminals, robberies, assaults or gang violence across jurisdictions and in different areas of the city. Making connections between seemingly unrelated data sets was difficult. It was also difficult, if not impossible, to mine and analyze data, and to identify crime patterns. As such, police couldn't react and respond to crime trends as quickly as they wanted or get ahead of any emerging problems as soon as they surfaced.
The Vancouver PD developed and deployed a sophisticated crime and intelligence analysis system called the Consolidated Records Intelligence Mining Environment (CRIME). Using GIS mapping plus spatial, temporal and link analyses, the solution helps the department's crime analysts make sense of location and event-related data. By tracking and mapping crime events and its movement over time, the department can better identify and understand any underlying patterns and trends common to a crime series, such as open, unmonitored parking structures that are known to a select group of property offenders. By identifying potential crime hot spots, the department can focus its police resources at these locations and direct efforts toward specific offenders, with the goal of preventing crime before it happens.
Further reinforcing the merits of the analytic contribution to the Department were a host of success stories that showcased the positive outcome and net return on the investment in technology and development of a professional analyst cadre. One example involved the successful identification and subsequent arrest of Ibata Hexamer. Hexamer had been preying on children throughout the metro area for a number of years, and was responsible for serial child sex assaults against six victims. Despite a year-long exhaustive investigation under the banner of a joint task force, no leads surfaced. As a result, an analytics team was assigned to the task force when the investigation had exhausted all other options. Within seven weeks, the team successfully identified the offender, which was later confirmed through DNA evidence. Hexamer was charged with 23 sex-related offenses.
Evolution of the Vancouver PD analytic services delivery model saw technologists and analysts as trusted members of the team. They are front and center throughout the decision-making process and analytics is used to determine how to effectively deploy officers, how to best assess situations, and how to plan for large scale events like the Winter Olympics. The evolution in the use of analytics saw a merging of technology and the analytic process in a way that complemented an officer's investigative knowledge, gathered from years of experience, rather than detracting from it.
Further supporting this initiative, the Vancouver PD has a management team who are technologically well-versed, progressive in building organizational capacity, and mindful of the merits of analysts working in conjunction with sworn members to deliver crime control strategies.
A lot of public-safety apps are out there, but many aren't public-safety ready
by Glenn Bischoff
Applications already are being developed for the public-safety sector, and while some— like Charles Werner, chief of the Charlottesville (Va.) Fire Department —are putting them to good use, others are urging agencies to use caution.
“Some of the apps are good, and some are not very good at all,” said Marty Bausano, deputy director of St. Clair County (Ill.) 911 Emergency Telephone System Board, who spoke on the topic at the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) conference in June.
One of the big issues is that application developers often don't have a very good grasp of how public-safety answering points (PSAPs) operate, or how they differ from each other, according to Sandy Beitel, 911 coordinator for the Ogle County (Ill.) Sheriff's Office, who also spoke. Consequently, NENA and the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) developed a joint working group that has published a document designed to better educate app developers, Beitel said.
“I run very small centers—I have two PSAPs with a total of six positions—whereas [cities like] Charlotte, Houston and Dallas have very large centers. While we all have the same concerns, some of our [operations] are very different,” she said. “Application developers, in the beginning, didn't understand all of the disparities between the different centers.”
Worse, many didn't understand even the basics of PSAP operations, according to Beitel.
“There's a reference code that is carried with the 911 call to indicate POP or PSAP routing, and a lot of the developers didn't understand that,” she said. “They didn't realize that we had these predefined geographical [coverage] areas.”
Bausano echoed Beitel's comments, saying that app developers often don't understand the limitations of many PSAPs.
“Most centers currently cannot accept text, pictures or videos,” she said. “Also, does the app require the PSAP to have Internet access to receive the information? That's so important, because a lot of PSAPs are not even allowed to have Internet access—these may be dispatch centers that are [overseen] by a local government that simply will not allow an employee to have Internet access.
“A lot of app developers have no idea that there are those limitations at a PSAP today.”
It is imperative that any 911-oriented apps integrate with PSAP platforms and that they provide information in the manner that PSAPs need to receive it, Bausano said. Meanwhile, agencies need to be aware that some apps require the purchase of proprietary hardware and software, as well as usage fees, she said.
Bausano said there are other significant questions, including:
· Will the applications significantly add to the workloads of telecommunicators, who—in many cases—already are overburdened?
· Does the app developer have service-level agreements in place and, more importantly, the ability to troubleshoot when something goes awry?
· Does the app initially route the call to a third-party call center?
In another related session during the NENA conference, Todd Piett, ENP, chief product officer for Rave Mobile Safety—a vendor of public-safety software—spoke to the first question above. He said that 911 telecommunicators soon will begin to look a lot like air-traffic controllers.
“If you think managing GIS data is a pain, wait until you have to worry about a thousand connections from a thousand different app vendors pushing things in,” Piett said.
Regarding the final question above, Bausano pointed to OnStar as the shining example of a third-party call center that does things right. Unfortunately, not every third-party call center is OnStar.
“All of you are aware of OnStar and what a great, robust system it is—and what a great job their call centers do,” she said. “Is the app developer going to use a third-party call center that is accredited? Will that call center provide pre-arrival [emergency medical dispatch], if your jurisdiction is one that currently provides pre-arrival EMD?
“If there are any other specifics that your county or state requires, will the third-party call center be able to meet those requirements? Or did the app developer contract with a third-party call center that has no knowledge of police, fire or EMS?”
Apps that interface with the public pose their own set of challenges, according to Beitel. For starters, television programs have given the public a false sense of what actually is feasible in terms of app capabilities. In addition, many apps notify family and friends when a user contacts 911.
“There are a lot of issues with that,” Beitel said. “What's going to happen when mom gets a text that Johnny has called 911? Mom is going to rush to where Johnny is. You're going to have an influx of people [at the scene], or you're going to have an influx of calls into your 911 center from people asking ‘What's going on?' and that's going to increase your workload.”
What the public-safety sector needs is an applications clearinghouse, Beitel said.
“There are so many of these things coming out,” she said. “We learn about these apps from people who see them on some website and send us the information, because they know we're on a committee, because there is no clearinghouse.”
UD Public Safety outfits officers with body-worn cameras
by Sarah Devine
As of last semester, every University of Dayton Public Safety officer is equipped with a camera at the beginning of their shift, according to UD Public Safety officials.
UD Police Chief Bruce Burt said the pager-sized cameras are attached to officers' shirts and are utilized to record interactions between police officers and individuals.
“The primary purpose for the cameras is to document and create evidence for both administrative and criminal investigation purposes,” Burt said.
Randy Groesbeck, a UD police major and the director of administration and security for the Department of Public Safety, said the cameras provide video and audio account from an officer's prospective.
Burt explained the cameras are only activated by the officers when they make contact with individuals for enforcement or to take reports from complainants.
UD Public Safety already uses video to gather evidence through usage of dashboard cameras in patrol cars and the over 1,000 cameras placed throughout campus, Groesbeck said.
“There are no video cameras in the student neighborhoods,” Groesbeck stressed.
Burt added there was no specific incident prompting utilization of the body-worn cameras.
“Technological advancements are being made in law enforcement,” Burt said. “Every year there are tools that come out to assist in documenting and recording evidence. This one was affordable.”
Burt estimated the cameras cost between $800 and $900 each. He said nearby Sinclair Community College outfits their officers with the same technology.
Groesbeck added the body-worn cameras also made the most sense for the nature of the officers' jobs.
“A lot of our interactions with people are on foot,” Groesbeck said. “We usually get out of our patrol cars and talk to people face-to-face.”
Burt said, in addition to evidence collection, the cameras can also be utilized to record potential incidences of officer misconduct.
A retention system is in place to keep videos being used for investigations and to purge those that are not, Burt said.
“The officers can't go in and change or edit the videos in any way either,” Burt said.
However, officers are not required to inform someone they are being recorded due to Ohio's one-party consent law and video captured by the cameras is not considered public record and cannot be requested, Burt explained.
“There's no hidden agenda behind the cameras,” Burt said. “It's just another tool. These devices may provide information which is beneficial or nothing at all. They are meant to document everyday interactions and no one's privacy is being invaded.”
Kevin Carlin, a senior finance major, said he didn't agree with university policy to withhold the videos.
“I can see how the cameras could be useful, but at the same time I feel like it's sort of an invasion of privacy,” Carlin said. “I'm also not okay with being unable to request the videos.”
Colleen Morgan, a first year undecided business major, was surprised to learn UD Public Safety utilizes the cameras.
“I had no idea they had technology like that,” Morgan said. “I can see the pros and cons of the cameras. I guess it's good for evidence, just as long as they're being used for the right reasons.”
Great use of video by public safety officials is in the interest of society
by Examiner Editorial
Police officers in San Francisco will soon wear chest-mounted cameras when serving search warrants. This will be beneficial for everyone involved and should highlight the advantages of having evidence when the actions of public safety employees are called into question.
The Police Department will equip supervisors with cameras to be turned on just before officers enter a residence to serve a search warrant. This policy is a response to 2011 accusations by the Public Defender's Office that officers illegally entered single-room occupancy hotel rooms and later falsified reports to justify the searches.
More than one story often emerges when citizens and law enforcement officials interact. With video, after-the-fact observers will have a much more precise record of exactly what transpired, unclouded by the emotions or faulty memories that often affect people on both sides.
The Police Department has not jumped blindly into giving officers cameras. It took a year to roll out a limited program that will be used by a small number of supervisors in certain situations. Police Chief Greg Suhr doesn't rule out using cameras in other situations, but said his department would first have to change its policies — a public process likely to take time.
The potential upside of using cameras in police work has been highlighted by the city of Rialto in Southern California, which started doing so in February 2012. According to an article in The New York Times, police there have seen an 88 percent decline in complaints since then, and a 60 percent drop in the use of force by police officers. It should not surprise anyone to learn that everyone behaves a little better when they know their actions are being recorded on video.
And such video recording should not stop with the police. During the response to the Asiana Airlines crash at San Francisco International Airport, one city firefighter evidently used a helmet-mounted camera to capture video of crucial moments in which a firefighting rig struck a passenger. This video will help investigators determine how some decisions were made on that day — crucial evidence free from the adrenaline-fueled horror of that tragic event and the brave work of first responders.
The release of that footage, first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, initially drew a rebuke from the Fire Department, which noted that the footage violated its policy. But the department later said it will reconsider the use of cameras by its officers.
Like the police, the Fire Department should devise some clear-cut rules for how and when its personnel record video. There are undoubtedly many valid privacy concerns surrounding such footage, particularly issues involving images of victims.
But just because such video is taken and made available to fire officials does not mean that it should necessarily be released to the public. In fact, one can envision many occasions in which such video should not be released — as is the case with various police reports and court records that are permanently sealed or heavily redacted before being made public.
On a near-daily basis, firefighters and police officers must make split-second decisions to protect the lives of regular citizens. Video footage can capture these situations for future review to help police and fire officials better train their staffs and devise policies that benefit society.
In short, the era of public safety video recording is upon us. And while privacy concerns should remain central in the minds of anyone working to craft policies regarding the use of such video, the benefits to the public of such recordings clearly outweigh the risks.
National Suicide Prevention Week to be observed Sept. 8-14
The theme for the 39th annual National Suicide Prevention Week is “Challenging Our Assumptions and Moving Forward Together." Suicide prevention is everyone's business and anyone can participate in National Suicide Prevention Week. Suicide Prevention Week for 2013 is set for Sept. 8-14.
Alabama ranks No. 23 in suicide, deaths are at 639 at a rate of 14.2 percent (all rates are per 100,000 population) U.S.A. suicide: 2010 official final data. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States with one suicide occurring on average every 14.2 minutes. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15 to 24-year-olds. The elderly make up 12.9 percent of the population, but comprise 15.9 percent of all suicides.
Approximately 922,725 Americans attempt suicide each year. It is estimated that five million living Americans have attempted to kill themselves. Every year in the United States, more than 18,500 men and women kill themselves with a gun; two-thirds more than the number who use a gun to kill another person. An estimated 4.73 million Americans are survivors of suicide of a friend, family member, or loved one.
A person in acute risk for suicidal behavior most often will show some warning signs, for example: threatening to hurt or kill him or herself, or talking of wanting to hurt or kill him/herself; and/or, looking for ways to kill him/herself by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means; and/or, talking or writing about death, dying or suicide, when these actions are out of the ordinary.
If any of these signs are observed seek help as soon as possible by contacting a mental health professional or calling 1-800-273-TALK(8255) for a referral. Additional warning signs include but are not limited to; increased substance (alcohol or drug) use, no reason for living; no sense of purpose in life, anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all the time, feeling trapped - like there's no way out, hopelessness, withdrawal from friends, family and society; rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge, acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking and dramatic mood changes.
If observed, seek help as soon as possible by contacting a mental health professional or calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for a referral. These warning signs were compiled by a task force of expert clinical researchers and translated for the general public.
There are many occasions that can cause each of us to feel depressed. Depression is the most prevalent mental health disorder. The lifetime risk for depression is 6 to 25%, according to the National Institute Mental Health (NIMH), 9.5 percent or 20.9 million. Common symptoms of depression, reoccurring almost every day are: depressed mood (e.g. feeling sad or empty), lack of interest in previously enjoyable activities, significant weight loss or gain, or decrease or increase in appetite, insomnia or hypersomnia, agitation, restlessness, irritability, fatigue or loss of energy, feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, guilt inability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation, suicide attempt or plan for completing suicide.
A family history of depression (i.e., a parent) increases the chances (by 11 times) that a child will also have depression. The treatment of depression is effective 60-80 percent of the time. However, according to the World Health Organization, less than 25 percent of individuals with depression receive adequate treatment. If left untreated, depression can lead to co-morbid (occurring at the same time) mental disorders such as alcohol and substance abuse, higher rates of recurrent episodes and higher rates of suicide. American adults suffer from a depressive illness in any given year. The risk of suicide in people with major depression is about 20 times that of the general population. Individuals who have had multiple episodes of depression are at greater risk for suicide than those who have had one episode. People who have a dependence on alcohol or drugs in addition to being depressed are at greater risk for suicide.
The Alabama Cooperative Extension System offers education programs that span across the life span. These programs are opened to every citizens of all ages to help improve their health and well-being. Contact your local County Extension office for a list of current programs in your county, or check us out on the web at www.aces.edu/calendar. Resources used for this article: American Association of Suicidology, 5221 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20015, ADPH.org -2013 National Health Observances.
For more information, please contact Amanda Outlaw, firstname.lastname@example.org or 251-574-8445.