Protecting local communities from crime with powerful data analytics
Gloucestershire Constabulary puts officers in the right place at the right time to prevent crime and respond rapidly to emerging incidents
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 the demand on their services. They must use their limited resources in the most cost-effective way to help them solve problems and keep communities safe from harm.
Previously, the Constabulary’s performance team prepared monthly or weekly incident reports, which it emailed out to its senior leadership. The team relied on time-consuming, manual processes, using mainly Excel spreadsheets to sift through and manipulate data from multiple sources. This made presenting an up-to-date picture of crime a significant challenge: as soon as the report was finished, it was already out of date.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 the Forest of Dean. To ensure we focus on the issues that have most impact on these communities, we need a breakdown of the locations and times when criminals are most likely to strike.”
In its search for improved data to enhance performance and reduce demand on its services, the Constabulary recognised it needed to generate automated reports from its extensive data warehouse. The Constabulary was already using a range of SAS products, so it was natural to consult SAS for assistance in installing and using two new solutions: SAS Analytics and SAS Visual Statistics. The aim was to deliver managers and supervisors with real-time data that they could self-serve from a menu of performance dashboards across a range of business areas.
Bob Keeble continues: “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 are 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 records. 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.
In the first three months, the Constabulary produced a range of performance dashboards, which include data on:
- Crime trends and hotspots
- Crime management and allocation
- Incidents versus resources available
- Case file creation
- Hate crimes
- Stop searches conducted by officers
- Voluntary interviews conducted away from custody suites
Assistant Chief Constable Moss explains: “In Gloucestershire, we recognise that data has to be 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 order to problem-solve to reduce crime and demand.”
Police Superintendent Paul Dutton, Head of Neighbourhood Policing, adds: “SAS feels like a great tool for a strategic over view of the force at a glance, the use of picture charts and mapping is welcome and brings the screen to life.”
Police Chief Inspector Neil Smith, Head of Local Policing, says: “To have the ability to see a ‘live’ performance database across so many key areas of business is a huge step forward. The SAS solution will assist us greatly in directing our resources, highlighting vulnerability whilst ensuring we give our leaders the ability to make decisions around threat, risk and harm.”
Bob Keeble continues: “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, Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) 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.
Natalie Oakley, Communications and Engagement Manager, comments: “I am very impressed by everything the performance centre has to offer and know that SAS will fundamentally improve the way that this team does business.
“The performance centre is enabling us to do is to mine the ‘who’ and the ‘where’ of crime in the county. This in turn has meant we can start to build campaigns that are evidence-based, targeted and meet the needs of our audiences. It allows us to reduce our costs because our targeting is better, and in turn, we should see engagement increase as our residents receive meaningful communications.
“Take Operation Switch, for example. This year, by mining the data, we can see that we need to focus our attention on the Forest of Dean, where burglary has risen considerably in the last three years. This now means we can coordinate events and media coverage to encourage citizens in these areas to be more security-conscious. The ability to drill down to postcode level also enables us to send out acutely targeted messaging to homes within break-in hotspots—the right messaging, to the right people, in the right places.”
With a greater understanding of crime, the Constabulary can align staff training to local needs—for example, ensuring that officers are fully trained to deal with sexual offences and cybercrime, which are on the rise in Gloucestershire in line with national trends.
The SAS solutions will 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 helping officers work more efficiently too, 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 senior managers and the Police Federation to plan smarter operating practices.”
The Constabulary’s latest initiative with SAS is to explore the possibilities of forecasting—a topic that HMICFRS has suggested all constabularies consider as part of their Force Management Statements.
SAS suggested working with subject-matter experts with specific experience in forecasting projects. Following a procurement process, the Constabulary selected Amadeus Software, a data science consultancy firm that has close links with SAS.
So far, the initial work has focused on forecasting crime types at an agreed frequency. Amadeus trained the Constabulary’s team to use the appropriate forecasting methodology and developed a manual to support officers through the process. The Constabulary is now continuing to test its understanding of the methodology and apply it to other areas of the organisation, such as violent incidents and domestic abuse. SAS/ETS Software will play a key role in helping to develop this work further.
Bob Keeble concludes: “Our work with SAS is already helping us tackle crime more effectively, 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 feeds from body-worn cameras. With SAS behind us, we’re confident about our ongoing success.”
To plan more effective policing strategies and better protect residents, Gloucestershire Constabulary needed fine-grained, real-time insight into criminal activity across the county.
- Identifies crime hotspots and trends with real-time insight into incidents at postcode level
- Enables accurate targeting of resources and awareness campaigns to address local needs
- Saves valuable time by automating reports that previously took one analyst a full day to create