Protecting local communities from crime with powerful data analytics
Gloucestershire Constabulary is responsible for policing across the county, serving 600,000 residents. To prevent and fight crime effectively, the Constabulary must be able to deploy resources at the right time and location.
In these times of austerity, all police forces are under pressure to understand and reduce demand on their services. Limited resources must be used in the most cost-effective way to problem solve, and to keep communities safe from harm.
Previously, the performance team prepared monthly or weekly incident reports, which it emailed out to its senior leadership. The team relied on time-consuming, manual processes to sift through multiple data sources, which made presenting an up-to-date picture of crime a significant challenge. It also meant that as soon as the report was finished, it was already out of date. To gain the deep insights needed to plan smarter policing strategies, the Constabulary began searching for more powerful analytics tools.
Thanks to SAS, we will be building more targeted, data-driven strategies to maximise our impact in the fight against crime, helping to keep the people of Gloucestershire safe. Bob Keeble Continuous Improvement Manager Gloucestershire Constabulary
Bob Keeble, Continuous Improvement manager, explains: “We operate across 1,000 square miles, including urban centres like Cheltenham and Gloucester, and the rural environments of the Cotswolds and Forest of Dean. To ensure we focus on the issues that most impact on communities, we need a breakdown of the locations and times when criminals are most likely to strike.”
In its search for improved data to enable it to improve performance and reduce demand, the Constabulary recognised it needed automated system generated data from its extensive data warehouse. This led them to approach SAS for assistance. The aim was to provide managers and supervisors with real time data that they could self-serve from a menu of performance dashboards across a range of business areas.
In the first three months, a range of performance dashboards have been produced, which includes data about:
- Crime trends and hotspots
- Crime management and allocation
- Incidents v Resources available
- Case file creation
- Hate Crimes
- Stop Searches conducted by officers
- Voluntary interviews conducted away from custody suites
ACC Moss explains: 'In Gloucestershire, we recognise that data has to up to date, accurate and readily available to a range of supervisors with different requirements. The dashboards we produce meet this varied need and we are beginning to see local managers putting the data to good use in problem solving to reduce crime and demand.'
"Reporting year-on-year crime statistics is relatively straightforward, but we wanted to gain a deeper understanding of long-term trends for offences such as burglary and rape. We were keen to discover the influence of factors such as seasonality, and whether we were allocating resources as well as we could to protect residents."
Smoking out patterns in criminal activity
To uncover real-time insights into crime, Gloucestershire Constabulary decided to deploy powerful analytics solutions from SAS, including SAS Visual Analytics and SAS Visual Statistics.
"We looked at solutions from several leading vendors," recalls Bob Keeble. "When we ran SAS Visual Analytics on a trial period, we were really impressed, and knew we had found the perfect mix of powerful analytics and clear visualisation capabilities."
The SAS solutions is enabling Gloucestershire Constabulary to draw together data from multiple systems, including its electronic incident log, phone system, GPS-fitted radios, and criminal data from its crime logs. The solutions present the data on a set of dashboards, allowing officers to log in and see a live breakdown of crime statistics, categorised by Home Office guidelines.
Bob Keeble continues: "The feedback from our officers has been excellent; they find the SAS solutions really intuitive and simple to use. Our senior leaders find it enormously useful to view three-year trends per crime type, and to assess whether offences are going up or down or are affected by time of year. And our officers can drill down into the data to monitor specific crime types committed in local areas to assist them in problem solving local issues."
The insights will also help Gloucestershire Constabulary be more accountable, as crime maps and performance indicators will democratise data, keeping residents informed about local incidents. The force can also provide detailed reports to Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary regarding local crime statistics, staff numbers and response times, to assist in appropriate resource allocation.
Bob Keeble adds: "Working with SAS has been superb. They deliver real analytics expertise, and offered first-rate training, getting our users up-to-speed with the solutions rapidly. If we have a question, our contact always delivers a fast response. We really cannot praise SAS highly enough."
Cracking down on crime
With deep insight into local crime from the SAS solutions, Gloucestershire Constabulary can deploy resources where they are most needed to protect communities.
"Thanks to SAS, we will be building more targeted, data-driven strategies to maximise our impact in the fight against crime, helping to keep the people of Gloucestershire safe," explains Bob Keeble. "Our community support officers can put out more meaningful, targeted communications, lifting engagement levels with local residents. What's more, because our efforts are focused on crime hotspots, we can deploy resources in a more cost-effective manner.
"Take Operation Switch, in which our officers warn people about the risk of burglary due to the darker evenings. This year, we are drilling down to postcode level to pinpoint break-in hotspots, and discovered burglary rates have jumped over the last three years in the Forest of Dean. We are building a co-ordinated media and policing strategy, putting the right people in the right places at the right time to crack down on these incidents."
With a greater understanding of crime, the Constabulary can align staff training to local needs—for example, ensuring that officers are trained to manage sexual offences and cybercrime, which are on the rise in Gloucestershire in line with national trends.
The SAS solutions will also save the performance analysis team valuable time. Previously, preparing a single report took one analyst one day; now, the process is automated, enabling analysts to spend more time planning new dashboards to address existing and emerging needs. For example, the Constabulary is aiming to add dashboards documenting hate crime incidents.
Supported by SAS, Gloucestershire Constabulary is also helping officers work more efficiently, as Bob Keeble explains: "One of our first dashboards shows how many incidents each officer is handling and how long the process is taking. That provides insight into whether officers are under too much pressure, which we can combine with feedback from the Police Federation to plan smarter operating practices."
Bob Keeble concludes: "Our work with SAS is already helping us better tackle crime, and we have many more exciting things in the pipeline. We are keen to embed more SAS solutions to enhance our forecasting capabilities, and to incorporate new data sources, such as body-worn cameras. With SAS behind us, we're confident about our ongoing success."
To plan more effective policing strategies and to better protect residents, Gloucestershire Constabulary needed fine-grained, real-time insights into criminal activity across the county.
- Granular real-time insights into incidents at postcode level help identify crime hotspots and trends
- Enables accurate targeting of resources and awareness campaigns to address local needs
- Saves valuable time by automating reports that previously took one analyst one day to create