How Business Intelligence can be used in Law Enforcement

Friday, June 15, 2018

How Business Intelligence can be used in Law Enforcement

Business intelligence provides law enforcement officers with the information to deter criminals and make the world safer by analyzing crimes that have been committed. BI can be used to help provide information a complete activity profile for an offender in the system, combining information from different judicial partnering agencies which aid in investigations and even apprehensions. It can provide a holistic view in order to predict where and when a crime may happen so that agencies can deploy the policing resources to manage it. A direct result of this is ‘predictive crime mapping’ where police can use hot spot maps that show locations where crime will possibly occur in order to be more efficient in preventing it.

The BI software will use information gathered from previous criminal-related activity and using a computer algorithm calculates temporal data that is fed into a GPS-based map to indicate geographical areas that are considered high-risk based on that calculation. From 2012-2013, the use of predictive crime mapping identified at-risk areas to allow more patrol to be dispatched to those areas resulting in a 39% reduction in home burglaries. However, there has been much controversy to how this information has been acted upon. We need to look at the benefits of how it could assist our police departments while being aware of its challenges and how to overcome those.

Assessing the Requirements

A law enforcement agency can greatly benefit from this type of big data intelligence through the adoption of a business intelligence solution that optimizes various criminal justice resources to create a holistic view of offenders’ information. The following requirements should be assessed as part of a devised plan to find the best solution to support not only the organization’s core business processes but meet the needs of all internal or external stakeholders.

Information must be provided expeditiously. Unfortunately, in our current environment, crime is a constant factor. It needs to be acted upon by immediately and the due process of the law needs to take place in a timely manner. This means information must be available at the appropriate times in order to make decisions. When selecting a business intelligence solution to support the analysis of crime data it is important to choose one that is updated with real-time information. This was one of the drawbacks with some of the first business intelligence applications that were provided for law enforcement in the mid-1990s.

The BI solution should be able to share information across various different justice and partnering jurisdictions in an expedient manner enabling them to launch a rapid and coordinated response to high-risk situations. This will enable the internal and external stakeholders to have access to the most current profile of information in order to make any business decisions needed based on this knowledge. When used for predictive crime mapping, the information needs to be gathered and processed from real-time data in order to be proactive in targeting intervention efforts. If there were several patrol car stops for suspicious activity in a specific area within the hour, extra patrol cars need to be dispatched to that area immediately, not four or more hours later.

The Collaboration of Criminal Data

The collaboration of information across departments and agencies is vital. Due to several data silos, many criminal justice agencies aren’t able to share the wealth of knowledge that is gathered. John Wright, who worked for a UK counter-terrorism unit, indicated in an interview with that security and law enforcement agencies aren’t able to get the most out of the data they have access to because they lack the ability to combine multiple sources of information. A more collaborative approach to sharing data is needed. A BI solution should use advanced data access, matching and entity resolution to integrate offender information from disparate systems in order to provide a holistic view of an offender’s history to make more informed decisions. With this, we are able to pull data related to all stages of the criminal justice process as well as information that should be considered related to the offense.

Information has to be accurate and delivered using automated mechanisms. Some of the first BI solutions relied heavily on human interpretation and manual searching of the data. The suggested BI solution allows the department to set up ‘watch lists’ to be automatically alerted when there is a specific activity or status change related to a person-of-interest occurs in order to respond swiftly. The system will even trigger an alert if there are multiple investigations performed on the same offender allowing the different investigators to coordinate their efforts. This is very vital to Fugitive Warrants Units as it is their responsibility to locate offenders to either be brought to trial or serve their sentence. The needs of this internal stakeholder can be met by allowing them to enter the fugitive’s name and be alerted of events such as the person being stopped for traffic, arrested in a different jurisdiction, or other interactions where his or her information would be entered into the system.

External stakeholders may depend on offender information to make decisions concerning offender sentencing and the outcome of their court hearing. BI solutions provide easy access to information in order to allow these agencies to investigate offender backgrounds through the use of intuitive user interfaces that present the data in formats that integrate with their own data resources and systems. Advanced searches, detail screens, and timelines provide needed insight for these external stakeholders to perform their business operations. For example, it is important that during a court hearing that the State's Attorney is able to combine all the necessary data to create a prosecution against the offender. Therefore, the ability to integrate various data sources such as court and arrest records, sex offender information, driver’s license data and more can provide a complete profile and history for the external stakeholder.

Challenges in working with BI

The policing prediction approach that is taken by many BI solutions use machine learning where it is possible to predict crime that disproportionately targets ethnic and religious minorities as an increased risk resulting in them being singled out by police action. This challenge can be resolved by understanding that these BI tools are intended to function as purely an ‘advisory’ tool where the responsibility of acting on the predictions if still the responsibility of the officer.

Another challenge of working with the BI solution involves the issue of privacy. Even though a person might have never done anything wrong, crime prediction models could include those persons in a generated list of individuals considered likely to commit or be a victim of violent crime due to inherent bias in the criminal justice system. We’ve seen evidence of this within the practices of the Chicago Police Department (CPD) where they have used this data to create similar lists that have become highly controversial. They have used this ‘Strategic Subject List’ to pay visits to the people on the list to tell them that they are considered high-risk. Some may look at this as harassment based on a bias assumption. Business intelligent solutions should only be used in ways that are appropriate, such as an investigative resource or assessing risk and connecting people with social services, and not to arrest or harass people, or taking punitive actions based solely on their results. 

In order to support their core business processes, law enforcement needs the ability to access, manage, search and analyze data. They need to be able to access actionable information from different data sources. In order to understand and interpret risks business, intelligent data will need to be share between partnering jurisdictions. Business Intelligence solutions for integrating and analyzing criminal justice data can be used to create a holistic view of offender information that is used to make informed decisions, as long as it is understood that the predicted information from consuming this data is used in ways that are appropriate.

This article is part of a series of articles written concerning big data and law enforcement. Check out my other article: Working With Big Data in Law Enforcement.