Intelligent policing: Data visualization helps crack down on crime

Seeing the big picture of data is key in driving prevention and intervention

By Pete Snelling, Principal Technical Consultant, SAS

Across the world, law enforcement agencies are making more intensive use of data visualization technologies. In North America, for example, police are increasingly using systems that provide real-time views of locations, layered with crime, traffic, geospatial, weather and other data. As a result, decisions can be based on solid, robust data and resources allocated to guide intervention and crime prevention. Data visualization helps make this era of intelligent policing possible.

The data your agency holds is the key to seeing the big picture and overcoming the challenge of detecting and preventing crime in an increasingly complex criminal environment. But too much data can have an adverse effect. Data is already proliferating and much of it is unstructured (text-based) and therefore hard to manage and exploit.

Visualizing the way forward

Without the ability to visualize the big picture, critical information can go unseen, leading to incorrect decisions or no action at all. This, in turn, can put public safety at risk. Intelligent policing addresses this by installing an end-to-end value chain from accessing the data to visualizing, searching and analyzing it within a single environment.

Intelligent policing involves using visual analytics to rapidly create tactical and strategic reports for executive briefings – based on data from a wide variety of sources delivered in multiple formats, including web and mobile platforms.

An intelligent policing approach allows you to quickly find answers to key questions within big data. It also helps you spot trends and interpret visual patterns in data; regularly develop multi-format tactical and strategic reports; and allocate resources effectively to guide prevention and intervention. Visual analytics complements the approach, enabling police to dig deeper into the data, uncover hidden opportunities, identify key relationships and make faster, more accurate decisions.

With visual analytics, police can quickly create tactical and strategic reports using data from a variety of sources and formats, including web and mobile-based platforms.

In addition to the straightforward view of the data police have traditionally relied on for investigations, visual analytics helps them see more complex relationships in the data. It can help your agency understand if there's a correlation between an increase in drug offenses and the way you're deploying officers, for example.

Visual analytics can also help police achieve wider benefits for society. For example, motor vehicle crashes cost society an estimated $300 billion each year – in human terms, the cost is much greater. With an intelligent policing approach, police can use visual analytics to uncover crash causes; identify accident blackspots, and more. Then, potentially life-saving changes can be made.

Visual analytics also drives self-service, which is important since IT departments are overloaded. With an intuitive, self-service interface, visual analytics allows police to independently create reports – no need for assistance from the IT department.

Momentum building

Data visualization technology can bring benefits to almost everyone in the police force – and benefits extend into the wider community. The more police can see the big picture, the higher the likelihood of crime getting solved quickly. Momentum is now building behind the concept of intelligent policing based on data. The public increasingly expects this kind of approach. And the shift in focus within agencies from solving crime to preventing it from happening is helping drive it.

Police need access to data and leading analytics technologies to guide intervention and help prevent crimes. Read a blog post to discover five of the top technology considerations for law enforcement.