By Ryan Prox
The Great One, Wayne Gretzky, once said, “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.” To keep communities safe, police need to stay several steps ahead of criminals and engage crime on a proactive basis rather than the traditional reactive model. This has been the approach of the Vancouver Police Department.
Since the deployment of investigative big data analytics software from IBM and geospatial mapping software from Esri in 2009, the Vancouver PD has been able to spot where crime is headed, and, in many cases, help stop it before it otherwise would occur. Property crime rates have dropped city-wide per 1,000 residents by 24 percent and violent crime rates have decreased by nine percent from 2007 to 2011. Here are videos about the project.
As a result of this project, the PD had undergone an important cultural shift. Analysis is now front and center throughout the decision making process. It’s used to determine how to effectively deploy officers, how to best assess situations, and how to plan for large scale events like the Winter Olympics, which Vancouver hosted in 2010.
With the help of IBM and ESRI, the Vancouver PD developed and deployed a sophisticated crime and intelligence analysis system called the Consolidated Records Intelligence Mining Environment (CRIME). The system created the capacity to view and analyze crime-related data, to uncover trends, and to accurately predict when and where crimes were likely to occur.
By tracking the movements of offenders and mapping criminal activities over time, the Vancouver PD can reveal patterns and trends associated with these criminal activities. Examples such as crimes that occur at specific times of the day, or crimes associated with target variables such as open, unmonitored parking structures that potentially attract criminals. This analysis provides the opportunity for the police department to effectively dispatch officers according to an actual need to deter and prevent crime rather than merely respond to it.
With an advanced mapping and analysis tool such as CRIME, data is analyzed in mere seconds, linking non-obvious connections and uncovering relationships between individuals and criminal activities across time. The result is actionable intelligence that helps police to stay a step ahead of offenders, and optimizes the deployment of policing resources based on the situation unfolding.
The real force multiplier is expanding information sharing beyond the city limits. Through a partnership with PRIME Corp., an organization that manages police records at a province-wide scope, the Vancouver PD has already secured access to more than a billion records across the entire provincial jurisdiction. The Vancouver PD has also engaged partner agencies throughout the province and, in the interests of breaking down systemic barriers in information sharing and analysis, has opened up the system for other police services to use, and over time, we are hopeful that many locales will take advantage.
Ryan Prox is Special Constable & Analytic Services Coordinator for the Vancouver Police Department. He has firsthand experience in pioneering and implementing analytic programs, training and technology that addresses the operational, tactical and strategic needs of the organization.
With more than 390 civilian employees and 1,330 sworn officers, the Vancouver PD is the largest municipal police force in the province of British Columbia, Canada. The Vancouver metro region is comprised of 24 local governments with the most populous city being Vancouver, with a combined population of 2.5 million residents.