How police forces can use data to prevent crime

Data analytics can be the key that helps stop crime in its tracks

For a time, reacting to crime became the default mode of policing worldwide. But today we are seeing a return to the principles outlined by Sir Robert Peel in 1829. Countries are beginning to view prevention as "the primary purpose of policing.” This places the focus on making it as hard as possible to commit a crime in the first place. 

The emphasis on doing more with less, a mantra for police forces around the world, appears to be a policy that is here to stay. The US, with its focus on target hardening – pinpointing vulnerabilities and strengthening them to make the target harder to hit – spearheaded the approach. Other parts of the world are following suit:

  • South America. Police are tackling border protection issues by using technology to better monitor federal highways and manage traffic.
  • Africa. Forces are beginning to build crime prevention into their strategic approaches, through better crowd management and police dedicated to reducing road traffic accidents.
  • Asia. Advanced analytic capabilities have been integrated into CCTV systems to improve response times to public safety incidents.

The main projected benefit of this new operational focus is in crime reduction – through target hardening and targeting hotspots – where additional resources can be deployed to deter crime. The approach appears to be working too. Crime has been falling as the use of techniques like data analytics increases. Forces are increasingly using IT to analyze the incidence of crime. In parts of Manhattan, this is reported to have reduced the robbery rate by more than 95 percent.

According to USA Facts, preliminary 2021 data from 85% of police departments showed that murders increased 29.4% between 2019 and 2020. But compared to the 1991 peaks, reported violent crime and property crime were down 49.2% and 62.0% in 2020, respectively.

Also, preventative policing leads to enhanced quality of life. Cutting the incidence of crime reduces the number of direct victims, provides peace of mind for people in crime-hit communities and helps break the cycle of offending that can run in families.

What police need to do

So how can police achieve this shift to preventative policing and tap into the benefits? Education is required - and training can be key here – in ensuring that police officers buy in to the preventative approach and understand its benefits.

However, in moving from principles to effective implementation, cost-effective and accessible technology is the "missing cog in the wheel." Police need to be given better access to data that will drive actionable intelligence and free up time to concentrate on investigating crime on the front line rather than dealing with time-consuming administrative tasks behind the scenes.

Analytics has the potential to enable police to achieve a truly preventative approach. This involves getting new understandings from data, identifying and recognizing suspicious behavior and activities, and helping officers to get a head start on the criminals. SAS can help by delivering state-of-the-art data analytics. With our approach, police forces can stay focused on the mission and make more informed decisions fed by complete, accurate and up-to-date data.

Police also need to push data exploitation to the frontline and operationalize analytics. It is about feeding police the information they need in real time when they need it and where they need it in the right format.

Officers can be provided with information about repeat offenders, for example – or if a given householder has access to a gun or knife. They can and should be prompted to take the most appropriate action to address such scenarios and stop incidents from happening at the source. With SAS technology, results can be delivered to the front line at just the right time, helping them prevent crime before it happens.

With information sharing added to the mix, details about prisoners on parole and conditions attached can be provided to officers, which can help to prevent crime. It should also be as easy as possible for all police staff to report crime and add it into the system and for information to be provided in real-time to front-line staff so they can stay more focused on prevention.

Police need access to the latest data analytics technology that gives them the information they need, when they need it, to combat crime. See how your force can tap into the benefits.

To learn more, download our white paper on evidence-based policing

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Police rely on access to the latest data analytics technology to give them the information they need – when they need it – to combat crime. Read more about how your force can tap into the benefits.