A SAS platform aggregates and analyzes data from multiple sources and enables role-based access to organizational data, traffic citations, criminal incidents and statewide calls for law enforcement service.
Using evidence-based policing, the Delaware State Police (DSP) apprehended a suspect in a robbery-turned-homicide within five hours, busted a burglary ring and identified the suspect in a series of assaults on seniors.
The agency uses a SAS-powered analytics platform that aggregates and analyzes data from multiple sources such as organizational data, traffic citations, criminal incidents and statewide calls for law enforcement service. It looks at the data to understand the nature of the crime, determine how police can devise appropriate responses and then measure the impact of those responses, said Steve Shirley, director of public safety solutions at SAS.
Evidence-based policing “encompasses a variety of different policing approaches that have been around for quite some time: problem-oriented policing, intelligence-led policing,” Shirley said. “There’s a framework there that injects a more research-based approach … rather than a traditional approach, which was based on crime count or incident count [and] which is less sensitive to the actual harm that that incident or that crime is causing the community.”
All levels of law enforcement can use the system via role-based access to role-appropriate dashboards. Leaders see a state- or county-level view, while supervisors can check workloads and performance, and officers use the system's investigative capabilities.
“In the past, that range of individuals may be using five or six different tools to do their job,” Shirley said. “What we’re trying to do now is consolidate on a single platform that provides content and functionality based upon the persona who’s using the software. Essentially, they’re all looking through the same lens and they’re… getting access to a single version of the truth.”
DSP has a centralized infrastructure that gives the public safety community shared records management and computer-aided dispatch capabilities, making it easier for SAS to access the information and prepare it for analysis. And because there is a statewide network, different agencies can access the SAS tools.
The company compliles with various security and privacy requirements to deploy in a law enforcement environment, whether it on premises or in the cloud. For instance, it meets Criminal Justice Information Services Division requirements, and information is assigned different levels of security depending on where it’s been collected and what the retention policies are, Shirley said.
He said he expects evidence-based policing to grow but cautions that “it’s not an alternative to things that have come in the past…. It provides a framework around legitimized crime-reduction strategies that helps agencies understand, ‘In this case, this technique is better for us because we put an evidence-based framework around understanding the problem and understanding if our response to the problem is actually working.’”
Shirley also differentiates evidence-based policing from predictive policing because the former derives characteristics about the incident, whereas the latter derives them about individuals. In fact, SAS avoids predictive policing as a tool or technique, he said.
“The goal of predictive policing was an ambitious one, where they are trying to predict where crime is going to happen, who’s going to commit that crime,” Shirley said. “Think about evidence-based policing as really a framework for prioritizing developing strategies, executing those strategies and monitoring those strategies.”
He likens evidence-based policing to applying to law enforcement a medical research approach in which all medications and surgical techniques undergo randomized trials to determine what worked and what needs adjustment.
The types of crimes that law enforcement most often uses evidence-based policing for include those activities that cause the most harm to the community, such as incidents that cause serious bodily injury. But the software can be applied in other ways, too. For instance, California is using it to support homeless initiatives and identify people who are no longer eligible to own firearms, Shirley said.
The software also has the potential to be used for internal relations, giving supervisors a way to understand staffing problems and early retirements so that they can rebalance the workforce without service disruptions.
DSP implemented the State Police Enhanced Analytical Response (SPEAR) model, which uses stratified policing, an evidence-based approach, about eight years ago. Troopers used the model to reduce robberies by 8.6%, burglaries by 11.7% and theft by 6.2%, according to the department’s 2019 annual report, the most recent one available. Additionally, troopers solved 75% of all reported violent crimes, well above the national average of 45%.
“I think that you’ll see a steady increase in the evidence-based policing movement globally, not just in the U.S.,” Shirley said. “It’s now becoming, I think, an emerging force in policing.”
Stephanie Kanowitz is a freelance writer based in northern Virginia.