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Information builders: fighting crime with analytics.

Today's law enforcement officers rely on a galaxy of interlocking systems and devices, from computerized records management systems to sophisticated dispatching software. Until now, the lack of standardization for different police departments often made it difficult to share vital information among forces. However, one business intelligence firm and several police departments in northern Kentucky are now working together to arm law enforcement officials with corporate-type tools and techniques that have resulted in some tangible results.


Collecting, examining, and sharing information presented a major challenge for the Erlanger, Ky., police department, according to Steve Castor, the Public Safety Communications Center manager who leads an 18-person department that shares information with citizens and neighboring communities.

"One of the things we found was that material was quickly dated and was time-consuming to create," says Castor. "We'd put it out at 8 [a.m.], and in a very short period of time, its usefulness would start to diminish."

He says the other problem they had was the lack of information sharing among departments. Even though Erlanger and neighboring towns were sometimes only separated by a single road, sharing information across those invisible boundaries rarely occurred except in high-profile cases.

"There were a lot of types of crime where, unless I had personal knowledge to say, 'Hey, you know, last night I did this, and it had some really suspicious things to it, and we should look for that,' it probably wouldn't make it to any other shift but my own, and it certainly wouldn't have made it to any other department but my own," says Castor.

So when Erlanger and neighboring towns combined and integrated their respective communications centers, the departments approached Information Builders to implement the company's WebFOCUS business intelligence platform. The company's clients, which include AutoZone, Deutsche Telekom, and Sony, also do business with state agencies, including police departments. The company used WebFOCUS Magnify to create a searchable database of crime and incident information to help officers analyze and wade through the data generated by the departments.

Officers can now quickly access information about past incidents and activity, even between departments or while out on patrol, says Castor. After being reviewed, information generated by dispatchers and others in the department is combined with individual reports from officers and deposited in a central organized database that officers can access whether in the office or on-the-go.

The system also conducts geographic analysis, giving a more accurate and in-depth view of incidents than the traditional "pins in a map" method the department previously used. Officers can search by keyword, incident type, date, and several other factors, helping investigators make connections between and among different incidents that Castor says would never have been noticed. The platform also helps supervisors generate detailed summaries and predictions of activity that would normally be out of reach.

"Most of the nation's police forces do not have the money to hire the people to do that," says Castor. "The system automates it and puts it somewhere we could've never gotten on our own."

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Author:Schiller, Kurt
Publication:Information Today
Geographic Code:1U6KY
Date:Jan 1, 2011
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