Predictive police work

Today?s law enforcement officers are utilizing technology and data analysis like never before in an effort to predict when and where crime may occur.

When Wyatt Earp wore a badge in the 1870s he practiced his own form of predictive policing when he famously banned gun-toting in Dodge City. Earp could have never imagined the predictive policing methods used by today?s peace officers.

Lieutenant Bryan Hall has a wide-ranging job description with the Newton Police Department. He works as a community liaison on social media, maintains the department?s official Facebook page, supervises training for the department, supervises the school resource officers, oversees animal control and parking control and serves commander of the Harvey County Emergency Response Team.

The part of his job he considers the most interesting is ?predictive policing.? Unlike traditional policing, predictive policing does not primarily respond to crime, it works to prevent it.

Surprisingly, Newton ranks high in Part 1 Violent Crimes in Kansas. Part I covers violent crimes such as aggravated assault, forcible rape, murder and robbery, and property crimes such as arson, burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft. Based on population, Newton currently ranks third in the state behind Wichita and Leavenworth.

Hall wants people to be aware that crime does occur. ?They must have a healthy appreciation that they can be a victim,? he says.

Predictive policing hopefully will lead to a statistical change. ?A lot of people think this type of police work leads to racial profiling,? Hall says, but he disagrees with that perception. ?It is crime profiling,? which uses historic crime data to forecast geographic locations where crime events are more likely to occur.

For example, ?People tend not to break into cars when it is raining,? Hall says with a smile. It is possible to predict future actions based on behavioral analysis. ?Every?one has patterns. They go to the same movie theater, the same restaurants and they tend to go on the same day. When your patterns cross the path of an offender, that is when a crime will take place.?

Blocking that path is the goal of predictive policing. ?We?re not using race, we?re using place,? Hall emphasizes.

Not long ago, Newton experienced a major outbreak of home burglaries. Using data analysis, the department was able to pinpoint a location of a possible suspect. Surveillance of the suspect resulted in an end to the string of burglaries.

Is predictive policing comparable to ?Big Brother?? Hall does not see it that way. Instead: ?It?s like moneyballing crime instead of baseball.?

Lieutenant Bryan Hall

Hall has become an expert on using the system. He was named the Bair Analytics 2014 National Officer of the Year for Crime Prevention. Currently, he is a criminal justice graduate student at Wichita State University, where he has been asked to become an adjunct faculty member next year. He will be teaching classes in predictive policing.

Hall?s work in the realm of social media is a departure from what has been the norm for many police departments.

?There has been a wall of silence for the longest time,? Hall says. A huge reason for this silence was the need to protect the rights of both victims and suspects. ?Forever, you just said nothing?no comment.?

Now, the emphasis is growing to keep the community better informed. Hall?s hope is to create ?active participation and to have a voice with the community.?

Another goal of the department?s social media presence is to prevent the public from jumping to conclusions. Often, rumors spread on Facebook or Twitter like wildfire, and. often the rumors are far removed from reality.

Hall strives to ?prevent unwarranted alarm? and provide an approachable presence in the police department. He has his own profile page and uses it to build relationships with the public. He says he believes in the serving portion of ?protect and serve,? and creating relationships is an important aspect of service.

Hall says recent high-profile cases has created an atmosphere of distrust around the country in regard to police protection. He hopes the Newton department is able to keep open lines of communication with the public. ?Every one of these guys who got into law enforcement did so because they truly care about he community and they want to help,? Hall says.

Like many government agencies, the Newton department is facing a shortage of officers and resources. ?We have lost so much experienced staff, and many duties have been delegated down. A lot of programs have been put on hold due to loss of staff.?

Despite the difficulties, Hall says the department is moving forward: ?Basic patrol services are our priority now.?

?It is very difficult to hire officers in the current climate,? he adds. This is where building relationships can make a difference. The school resource officer program is hugely important.

?You need positive interactions for learned behavior,? he says. ?When kids only see an officer in a time of crisis, they don?t have the respect for law enforcement.? But, he adds, if children see an officer on a daily basis when situations are calm, they are more likely to build relationships.

?You need positive interactions for learned behavior,? Hall says.

As a part of the department?s community projects program, Newton officers are hoping to begin a monthly public coffee session to provide an opportunity for people to come together and talk.

You can keep in touch with the Newton Police Department by joining its Facebook Page, which provides information all kinds, including a link to the RAIDS website where there is public access to an interactive crime map.

By Kelley DeGraffenreid


0 replies on “Predictive police work”