Seattle police deploy SeaStat crime mapping tech

The Seattle Police Department is using its crime data as part of a new program that’s aimed at quickly addressing crime hotspots based on analysis of crime data and community reports of incidents.

The Seattle Police Department is using crime data as part of a new program that’s aimed at quickly responding to hotspots based on analysis of crime data and community reports of incidents. A recent spike in crime in the Capitol Hill area of Seattle put the SeaStat program to its first test.

The city’s latest figures show overall crime is up 13 percent this year compared to 2013 according to the SPD blog. The biggest drivers are motor vehicle thefts, up 44 percent, and other thefts such as car prowls — up 15 percent.

Violent crimes are up 8 percent overall compared to last year, largely because of an increase in aggravated assaults. “We’re in the crime fighting business,” said SPD’s Chief Operating Officer Mike Wagers. “We’ve identified the trends and are working hard with our many partners to reverse them.”

The department is using SeaStat to drill down into the numbers to get real-time information on murders, assaults, burglaries and other serious crimes to help identify emerging trends. It’s also using community feedback on neighborhood crime.

SeaStat is based on CompStat, the crime and disorder data tracking and analysis method developed in New York City in the 1990s, where it was credited with reducing crime by 60 percent.

“CompStat will take the police department to the next level in observing, mapping and tracking patterns of crime and disorder and in mobilizing, analyzing and evaluating officer response,” said Seattle Mayor Ed Murray when he previewed his 2015-2016 budget. “It is a major reform that I believe is the key to our future success in crime prevention, in efficient and effective deployment of SPD resources and in police accountability.”

In the Capitol Hill area of Seattle, both community reports and data analysis indicated a significant increase in crime, so East Precinct Captain Pierre Davis has assigned officers to walk foot patrols and put additional officers on bikes. Several arrests were made as a result. The Capitol Hill plan will continue to be assessed at the SeaStat meetings and adjusted if needed.

Many municipalities use some kind of crime mapping technology, whether for internal use only or for the public. In 2010, police in Memphis, Tenn., added IBM’s Blue CRUSH (Criminal Reduction Utilizing Statistical History) software to create predictive models by analyzing crime and arrest data. The Los Angeles Police Department is among several in the United States using PredPol cloud-based software that automatically generates maps for police of where and when crimes may occur.

For citizens interested in monitoring local criminal activity, many jurisdictions are capitalizing on their open data efforts to provide crime maps. Fairfax County, Va., recently launched Police Events, a web-based tool that marries geo-coded crime data with search engine technology.  Baltimore and Boston create crime heat maps based on crime incident reports by local police. 

Michael Wells, executive director of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, said he likes what he’s seen so far, noting there’ve been several arrests recently. “We’re pleased there has been a response,” he said. Wells said he’s looking forward to seeing how the SeaStat program works out. Taking community concerns into account is a smart move, he said. That, along with the data analysis, “provides a one-two punch.”

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