The city of Ann Arbor recently won a technology achievement award from The Public Technology Institute – for the city’s integration of a piece of software called CrimeView Dashboard into police operations. The distinction was mentioned in city administrator Steve Powers’ Sept. 3, 2013 written report to the city council, which was attached to the council’s packet as a standard part of the agenda template.
CrimeView Dashboard is an Omega Group software product used internally by the Ann Arbor police department to help solve crimes. CrimeView is far more robust than Omega Group’s publicly available, web-based crimemapping.com, which provides citizens with crime maps based on data from the most recent six months.
In a phone interview with Chris Baldwin, Omega Group account manager for Ann Arbor, he told The Chronicle Omega views the company’s relationship with AAPD as a partnership. The publicly available crimemapping.com tool, Baldwin said, is relatively lightweight compared to the tools available in CrimeView, but is still useful for educating and informing the public.
As one example of the difference, crimemapping.com gives locations by street blocks, whereas the AAPD has access to the exact street address.
Through CrimeView, AAPD officers also have access to data on all calls for service, not just on the verified incidents. In a telephone interview, AAPD deputy chief Greg Bazick explained that a call for service is not automatically logged as an incident. The call initiates the report, but then it’s reviewed and validated – which means that, in the view of AAPD staff, an incident meeting the description took place. It’s those validated incidents that appear on crimemapping.com
CrimeView allows officers to set up and save standard data queries so that trends and patterns can be spotted, which can drive decisions about how to deploy resources with an eye toward solving crimes. Bazick described how CrimeView played a supporting role in a recent series of home invasions (breaking and entering). That effort involved sharing information with Pittsfield Township,, which also uses the CrimeView Dashboard.
CrimeView was used to plot reported crimes by date, time and location. Because AAPD had the suspect’s home address, known associates, and knew the suspect had no regular access to a vehicle, AAPD could identify the pattern of home invasions geographically, by day of week, and hour of the day, Bazik said. While CrimeView didn’t itself solve the crime, it saved a lot of time compared to the effort it would have taken to compile the information manually.
Bazik described the AAPD as still in the early stages of learning and using the CrimeView Dashboard tool. It’s part of the AAPD’s broader effort to take a data-driven approach to decision making.
That broader effort includes a project that takes a digital approach to officer activity reports. Having easily analyzable data about how officers are spending their time will allow the AAPD to provide a metric that’s important for measuring success in public safety as defined by the Ann Arbor city council. The description of public safety success, developed by the council at a December 2012 retreat, reads in part: “Police officers have between 25-30% of their time available for proactive policing.”
The AAPD started using electronic data sheets for officer activity logs around the beginning of the year. At the council’s July 15, 2013 meeting, AAPD chief John Seto told councilmembers that the department was doing the initial analysis of data that’s been recorded so far. Responding to an emailed query in late August, Seto wrote to The Chronicle that the analysis of timesheets would be reported to the city council sometime in the near future.
At the July 15 council meeting, Seto also briefed councilmembers on the somewhat downward trend for overall crime for the first six months of 2013, compared with the first six months of 2012. For example, based on the publicly available data from crimemapping.com for the additional month of July, The Chronicle counted 249 breaking-and-entering (forced and unforced entry) incidents from January-July 2013, compared to 295 for the same period in 2012.
Slightly more detail on the breaking-and-entering data is provided after the jump.
Ann Arbor: Breaking and Entering
The earliest Ann Arbor data available through crimemapping.com was from February 2011. One limitation on crimemapping.com is that only data from the most recent six months is available. Chris Baldwin, Omega Group account manager for Ann Arbor, told The Chronicle that the six-month window is based on a desire to have a standardized window for all agencies participating in crimemapping.com. In Michigan, that’s around 30 different departments.
However, The Chronicle has routinely downloaded the data available on crimemapping.com and added some data fields to facilitate analysis in common spreadsheet pivot tables (e.g., a “COUNT” flag). [.csv file of Ann Arbor crimemapping.com data 02.01.2011-07.31.2013]
The series of “home invasions” described by the AAPD deputy chief fall into the general category of “breaking and entering” crimes. Those are coded as at least five different types in the crimemapping.com dataset:
- B&E – Burglary – Forced Entry – Non-Residence
- B&E – Burglary – Forced Entry – Residence – Home Invasion
- B&E – Burglary – No Forced Entry – Non-Residence
- B&E – Burglary – No Forced Entry – Residence- Home Invasion
- Burglary – Unoccupied Building or Other Structure
To graph and map the data, The Chronicle filtered it based just on forced versus unforced entry (instead of residence versus non-residence). Geocoding was done with GPS Visualizer and the mapping was done with geocommons.com.
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