Friday, February 7, 2014

Better use of time and skills

I had an interesting email Tuesday from the supervisor of a crime analysis unit that has recently acquired the same web-based software we use for much of our work: CrimeView Dashboard. Essentially, this product allows a designer to set up a bunch of pre-configured views of data for users, and still provides users with the ability to create and execute their own ad-hoc queries. These views can be maps, tables, graphs, and grids. There are other dashboard products from other vendors, this is just the one I am most familiar with.

The unit supervisor who emailed me is hearing rumblings that the brass thinks that they can reduce the number of crime analysts now, since they have this new-fangled application--even before it has been implemented. She wanted to know what I thought about that.

I sent her a rather lengthy reply, but here is the gist of it: a product of this type ought to let your officers, detectives, supervisors and managers serve themselves with most simple needs. This in turn, should free your staff to do more real analysis, rather than servicing rather simple information requests: "What is the breakdown or Part 1 crimes in my district by type?", "What are the top 10 places for false alarms so far this year?", "Can you make me a map of registered sex offenders I can take to the neighborhood association meeting tonight?" and so forth.

Most crime analysts spend a lot of time on gathering information for others that really ought to be readily available, and not nearly enough on actual analysis. If you can free them from the never-ending parade of "can you get this for me?" requests, there is better use to be made of their time and skills.

With the implementation of CrimeView Dashbaord or any similar product, I would hope to see more in-depth analyses, more and better bulletins; more frequent proactive emails about crime patterns uncovered, more profiles about prolific offenders identified, and briefings from the Crime Analysis Unit on emerging problems; more and better follow-up evaluation of police strategies, more cases connected by a common M.O. discovered, more predictions of the most likely times and locations of robbery in the next two weeks, more consultation by analysts with police commanders seeking information about what strategies have proven successful based on research evidence; and more timely and accurate identification of trends and patterns--because analysts are spending more of their time doing these things, instead of creating bar charts for lieutenants, maps for captains, and weekly statistical reports for the chief.

More analysis, less collation of basic descriptive information from the records management system: that should be the payoff. When you need advice on your portfolio of mutual funds and stocks, you turn to a financial analyst who not only should be reasonably expert concerning investments, but should also give you trusted advice on a strategy to help you accomplish your goals. That's the same thing a crime analyst should do, and he or she should not be spending the majority of time gathering statistics and making PowerPoints for the technologically-challenged. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Amen!!! I hope many realize this when they think that software can replace an analyst all together, this is not the case. Good programs just make your analyst more efficient and more focused on the real aspects of crime analysis.