Bringing Analysts Under One Roof: Orlando Police Department’s New Crime Center to Improve Public Safety
By Jessica Herbert, PhD, Founder & CEO of IDEA Analytics
In 2019, the Orlando Police Department (OPD), tasked with protecting the safety of nearly 290,000 full-time residents and millions of visitors each year, began a three-year project aimed at improving public safety and reducing crime in their city.
Through technical assistance support from the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) National Training and Technical Assistance Center (NTTAC), IDEA Analytics worked with OPD leadership to identify challenges facing their analysts and officers and addressed the needs of each with a focus on improved analytical capacity and outcomes. The areas addressed included leadership, technology, and people, allowing OPD leadership to find opportunities for enhancing resources, developing strategies, and ensuring equitable services for the community and their teams.
When completed, this effort completely overhauled crime analysis functions and led to the full realignment of analyst personnel, redesign of analysis reporting, and launch of a new OPD Crime Center. The results not only changed how analysts do their work in Orlando but also improved how crimes are solved, while better supporting officers on patrol. During and after the project, leadership was able to create and follow data-driven policing strategies to support the next generation of policing in the city. Read the full case study of their efforts to learn more.
Strengthening Leadership for the Next Generation of Policing
In 2018, OPD Chief Orlando Rolón recognized the importance of creating data-driven policing strategies to support the next generation of policing in Orlando. This began the vision of the Crime Center and the work that eventually led to its opening.
Early in the project, as the strategy for the creation of the Crime Center became clearer, several issues moved to the forefront. The first was the need to appoint leadership to spearhead the effort and the second was identifying areas of potential funding for the project. Captain Jay Draisin quickly took the strategy and vision of the Crime Center. He began to realign crime analysis, forensic, and crime scene personnel, and synthesize the technology available to the department for intelligence-led efforts. Funding—another stumbling block for the department seeking to update technology and add personnel—was found using grants and reallocation of previously approved funds.
Bringing Analysts Together to Improve Results
Before the changes were implemented, an OPD stakeholder noted, “There was not a lot of structure and we didn’t have intended goals of where we were going as a unit. It didn’t seem like there was a need or want for analysts. We didn’t really have a lot of defined responsibilities and there was no accountability.”
Like many police departments across the nation, OPD had its analysts spread across various teams and divisions. Leadership often questioned the benefits of the analysts to the department, which led to analysts feeling frustrated and underutilized.
With OPD analysts sitting in assigned units or divisions, their tasks typically focused on case development and officer needs rather than supporting strategic responses to assist in addressing persistent crime concerns. This decentralized structure prevented analysts from collaborating on work, which thwarted the communication of timely and relevant information.
To improve this situation, analysts were moved under one supervisor into a single location, which led to improved standards of operations and better interactions among analysts. This, in turn, offered improved analysis, better communication among each other and with officers, and in-depth generation of data that could be used for problem-solving and crime reduction.
Increasing Personnel and Creating Clear Structures
To support the launch of the Crime Center, both external professional analysts and internal sworn OPD officers were recruited to support tactical and strategic information sharing and data-driven efforts. For professional analysts, the alignment of their analytical strengths with data processes and knowledge of the criminal activities enabled them to ensure the Crime Center developed meaningful, actionable data for officers and detectives. Crime Center leadership held a selection process to identify officers that embrace the direction of policing with technology and data. Combining these officers with professional analysts in the Crime Center created a clear balance of data development and information sharing. With patrol officers routinely asking, “Is the Crime Center on the line?” during active calls, there is a clear purpose and direction for staff today.
After the changes were implemented, an OPD stakeholder stated, “We learned very quickly that the number one priority is personnel. You can have every technology, toy, all the bells and whistles, but without enough people to manage all the information, centers can’t be utilized correctly.”
Putting It All Together
Once completed, the Crime Center reorganization helped analysts and leadership focus on intelligence and data-led policing strategies. The fully-staffed department enabled analysts to produce timely and actionable reports for operations, which continue to help reduce crime rates and increase community safety.
Today, the OPD Crime Center includes sworn OPD officers, civilian analytical staff, and crime scene and forensic technology staff.
OPD’s journey to generating a centralized Crime Center to support intelligence-led policing strategies has led to many improvements in evidence-based policing for the department. With all analysts sitting in one collective area with access to the various technologies OPD has to offer, information can now be accessed faster and disseminated directly to the people who need it. Analyst job satisfaction has also improved dramatically as clear strategies for using data and appropriate staff training plans have been implemented. Intelligence sharing among analysts and the data provided to officers and leadership have resulted in quick responses to active crimes, application of strategic data to patrol and investigative strategies, and in-depth analysis on guns, persons, and places contributing to persistent organized group violence. These elements make the Crime Center a success for OPD and will support their continued efforts of public safety.
If your jurisdiction is in need of training or technical assistance related to pretrial assessment tools, or if you know of a community that would benefit from this type of assistance, please contact BJA NTTAC at BJANTTAC@ojp.usdoj.gov and we can connect you to the appropriate training, assistance, TTA partner, and/or resources.
If you are interested in submitting the work of your organization or jurisdiction for consideration in a future TTA Today blog post or in obtaining information related to a particular topic area, please email us at BJANTTAC@ojp.usdoj.gov.
Points of view or opinions on BJA NTTAC’s TTA Today blog is those of IDEA Analytics and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice, BJA, or BJA NTTAC.