By John Markovic, Senior Policy Advisor, Bureau of Justice Assistance and Meredith Greene, Communications Lead, Bureau of Justice Assistance National Training and Technical Assistance Center
In Fall 2019, the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) hosted the National Public Safety Partnership (PSP) Enhancing Crime Analysis Capacity meeting at the University of Chicago Crime Lab (Crime Lab) in Chicago, Illinois.
This two-day event brought together PSP crime analysts, intelligence analysts, and analysis supervisors from around the country to focus on training specific to violence reduction. As the second annual meeting for the PSP/BJA National Community of Practice for Crime Analysts — which serves as a collaborative group “built for crime analysts, by crime analysts” to continue to strengthen PSP’s foundation and streamline the process for accessing training and technical assistance resources — the meeting presented the opportunity for peer-to-peer exchange and for veteran PSP sites to highlight their successful analytic approaches.
A core focus of the meeting centered on the Crime Lab’s work with the Chicago Police Department (CPD), including their support of Strategic Decision Support Centers (SDSCs) at police district offices. In addition, the meeting encouraged PSP agencies to maximize their potential in crime analysis and develop the tools and competencies needed to reduce violent crime. Speakers presented on crime analysis tools, emerging trends, lessons learned, and best practices from experts and law enforcement agencies.
Social Network Analysis
The meeting featured a discussion on the vast potential of Social Network Analysis (SNA), ways SNA can help make communities safer, and how several PSP sites have already developed effective SNA crime analysis approaches as a result of the training and technical assistance provided by PSP. SNA entails analyzing social relationships — particularly gang and other offending networks — and determining how knowledge about the roles of individuals within those networks affect disruption. Not to be confused with social media analysis, SNA helps visualize relationships defined on different types of ties (e.g., network of interrelations based on co-arrestees).
SNA is grounded on the idea that social relationships — as well as the structure of those relationships — matter. It can identify important individuals by their social position and may serve as the genesis for understanding the dynamics of deviant groups for actionable intelligence. In practice, SNA has helped identify gang structures, allowed law enforcement to center on network influences or bridges, aided in opioid intervention, and was critical to the success of the SURGE operation in Flint, Michigan.
Data Analysts and Advanced Analytics
The importance of leveraging data analysts and advanced analytics to position law enforcement agencies to act more predictively in fighting crime was one of the key discussion points. Speakers shared how CPD’s SDSCs — which operate at the police district level and focus on program evaluation, workforce allocation, data management and analysis, and data analytics — has helped reduce crime in Chicago.
In April 2019, CPD’s efforts to focus on data culminated in a project called “The Chicago Summer Plan.” CPD internally communicated a comprehensive plan to address the most violent areas of the city. It first conducted a historical analysis of summer violent crime from 2016–2018 — determining high-risk areas and allowing for additional policing and city-wide resources to monitor these “beats.” The result was a 17.5 percent decrease in shooting incidents.
Data analysis experts also offered why it is important to try to use diverse and alternate measures to validate that the data being collected is actually measuring what is intended. For instance, reports of gunshots may vary by neighborhood. However, particularly active neighborhoods may become inured to gunshots and under-report incidents.
PSP Site Discussion: Crime Analysis Capacity Building
Established PSP sites discussed their approach to crime analysis, as well as their challenges and best practices. Themes across sites included the importance of data analysts networking with patrol officers, investigators, and detectives to break down silos and how ride-a-longs are a great way to do this. The discussion also emphasized the importance of communities advocating for data access and knowing how to strategically and effectively pull from their data resources. Other topics discussed during this session included addressing the divide between crime and intelligence analysts, building usable products quickly, standardizing data across internal units to increase buy-in, reporting, and moving from a reactionary approach to crime analysis to more proactive tactics.
Visit the BJA National Training and Technical Assistance Center (NTTAC) website to see how BJA NTTAC works with law enforcement and other justice agencies in their efforts in reducing or removing opportunities to commit crime through data collection and analysis.
- Check out the National PSP to learn more about their sites, work, and efforts.
- Explore the University of Chicago Crime Lab to learn more about their partnership with civic and community leaders to design, test, and scale programs and policies to reduce crime.
- Take a look at the BJA-supported Analysis Toolkit and information clearinghouse.
- Review the Analyst Professional Development Road Map, Version 2.0.
If your jurisdiction is in need of training or technical assistance related to violence reduction, or if you know of a community that would benefit from this type of assistance, please contact BJA NTTAC at BJANTTAC@ojp.usdoj.gov. You may also contact the Violence Reduction Response Center — DOJ’s one-stop shop for connecting state, local, and tribal justice agencies with the most appropriate violent crime reduction TTA resources available — at ViolenceReduction@usdoj.gov or 1-833-872-5174.
If you are interested in submitting the work of your organization or jurisdiction for consideration in a future 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 are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice, BJA, or BJA NTTAC.