This excerpt from the column Be Advised by Doug Wylie, PoliceOne Editor-in-Chief, highlights how open data tools can improve public safety.
JOHNS CREEK, GA. — In the business sector, open data tools let organizations understand more about themselves, and report on that data to others — this is particularly useful for publicly traded companies that have reporting requirements for Wall Street.
In law enforcement, open data tools let police departments collect information from officers in the field or dispatch, store that data, and then pull reports out of the data to help visualize trends.
By having greater visibility into what’s working (and what’s not) in areas such as arrests, convictions, and response times, the agency can make better-informed decisions about patrol staffing and deployment. Not only can this data collection help the department become more efficient and effective in crime fighting, it can also help agencies educate the community about their efforts.
The Johns Creek Police Department in Georgia recently launched a new open data tool designed to enable its residents to pull a range of police department statistics, community reports and key goal progression. Dubbed PoliceView, this tool gives the citizens of Johns Creek the ability to search for the answers to questions about their local police departments, such as “How many arrests were made in my neighborhood in March?” or “What crimes have occurred near my child’s school?”
According to the Johns Creek Police Department website, PoliceView is “powered by Socrata for Public Safety in partnership with SunGard Public Sector.” The solution currently includes data sets for Incidents, CAD Calls for Service, Citations, and Accidents. Also available are Community Reports as well as data supporting the False Alarm Reduction Program and Traffic Enforcement Program.
JCPD Lieutenant Jon Moses told PoliceOne, “This current set-up is unsustainable. New methods are needed to re-engage citizens with law enforcement, and in some instances, rebuild trust. Luckily, recent technological trends like open data allow for a collective change in this paradigm. Open data tools allow organizations to compile enormous quantities of information and then catalog, analyze, visualize and report on that information in ways that were impossible before.”
Previously, the public would need to submit a Freedom of Information Act request for pieces of data, wait for the request to be processed, and then sift through the information (sometimes in paper format). Open data tools make the entire agency story available and upfront for the citizens to find pieces of information as easily as they could search for something in Google.
The best aspect of PoliceView is that it is proactive on the part of the police department — citizens can easily find the data they need — it is all available in a publicly digestible format,” said Lieutenant Moses.
Improving Public Safety Through Data Analysis
This sort of big data collection and analysis has major value internally, too. By analyzing the information, agencies are able to discover a lot about themselves.
For example, how much time officers spend responding to false alarm reports or if the agency needs to be prepared for certain times of the year when domestic disturbances are more likely than others.
“It is well-known that drunk driving arrests are more common on New Year’s Eve than many other nights of the year,” Lieutenant Moses said.
“An agency using an open data tool could also learn that August tends to be a more dangerous month than July, allowing for manpower to be allocated accordingly. Identifying and visualizing these anomalies and inefficiencies are some of the major benefits that open data tools provide for public safety and justice agencies,” he added.