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Leveraging Data for Proactive Policing

June 4, 2019

A variety of departments utilize proactive policing practices in their efforts to deter crime and maintain positive community relations. The success of these efforts can be greatly enhanced by utilizing data to drive decisions and monitoring the implementation of those decisions. This data can come from a variety of sources, including an agency’s body camera system.

Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD)

Most CAD systems maintain a list of calls for service, along with their priority, time, location, and disposition. By aggregating this data, departments can uncover patterns, and as a result, anticipate where additional patrol may be helpful at a given time.

Social Networks

By monitoring posts on community-based social networks such as Nextdoor, agencies can view real-time concerns from members of their community. Just as neighboring cities have different needs, communities can vary significantly within one’s jurisdiction, which results in the need to develop unique approaches for proactively policing these areas. Agencies should also keep in mind that use of social media varies among social demographics, and should take caution before putting too much weight on social media data.

Body Worn Cameras

Some may be surprised to learn that an agency’s body worn camera (BWC) system can also be used for proactive policing. With Visual Labs, a suite of location-based analytics is included in its software. This location data can be used both in conjunction with BWC footage or independent of it. For example, as shown below, authorized personnel can generate a heatmap to display where the most patrol has taken place during a certain period of time. Furthermore, custom geofences can be used to define critical areas and set proactive policing goals for the department. Like the body camera footage, all of this location data is automatically and securely uploaded from the smartphone. Chief Don Vallero of the Federal Heights, Colorado Police Department says, “I routinely use the Visual Labs analysis tools when setting community policing goals and in my reports to City Council.”

A heatmap from Federal Heights, Colorado patrol


Regardless of what data sources are used to enhance proactive policing, it is important to keep in mind that data sets can sometimes be skewed, even by unconscious bias. Stanford University Psychology Professor Jennifer Eberhardt has done extensive research on bias, and readers of this blog may find it interesting.

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