Process of Data Collection and Storage
The map relating to the highway shooter in Figure 2.1 at the beginning of this chapter could not be compiled or used by the crime analyst until data had been input into the GIS (geographical data system) as a means to plot the specific points of reference onto the map.
The data were derived from multiple systems that had stored the information once it was input from the various sources that created the data. For example, on a specific day a shooting incident occurred on a stretch of road along the highway. This incident was then called in to a 911 operator, who in turn dispatched the call to a police unit by use of the Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) system.
The responding officer, upon arrival, then created a report noting all of the particulars of the incident: date, time, location, vehicle description, and any other relevant information associated with that specific incident.
This police incident report was then uploaded into the police departments Records Management System (RMS). Once the report was in the RMS, it could then be searchable in multiple ways, by crime report number, location, victim name, and so forth.
The information could also be put into the GIS. (You will learn more about this in Chapter 12.)
Figure 2.2 Crime analysis process.
At this point, all the crime analyst would need to do is open the GIS and create a map using all of the information that was available from the data sources just mentioned. The following is a list of the various systems, along with the strengths and limitations each has in terms of data collection and storage:
- • Computer-Aided Dispatch
- • Records Management System
- • Geographic Data System
Usually, CAD is maintained by the agency responsible for 911 dispatching. CAD captures and stores several vital pieces of information for future use:
- 1 Calls received to 911
- 2 Calls dispatched
- 3 Which police car was dispatched
- 4 When the call to the police patrol was made, when the car or patrol was dispatched, when an officer was on scene, and when the call was cleared
- 5 Calls initiated by police officers
- 6 Notes from the responding officers
- 7 Location of the call
- 8 Action taken by the officer
- 9 Situation found by the officer
This information is stored in CAD, but CAD, in and of itself, has no analysis capabilities. The simple purpose of CAD is to track the status of every call to its completion. In addition, an important aspect of CAD is to efficiently manage the resources of the police department relative to the volume of calls. Most police departments receive a high volume of calls—most of which have little or nothing to do with crime or violence. However, it is important for the departments supervisory staff and administration to know the answer to two questions:
- 1 What cops do you currently have available to respond to a call for service?
- 2 Which officer(s) is closest to the location?
In many police departments, the GIS is often integrated into CAD. When GIS and CAD are integrated, police dispatchers have various features available to them. This includes full address information, such as alerts and past incidents; a map of the area, including street names, major buildings, and fire or emergency medical services zones; and the ability to link web cams, traffic cameras, building floor plans, and other documents or images to a map.
Records Management System
Many, if not most, police departments have an RMS or Records Management System. This is a system that allows the collection and storage of relevant police data. For instance, the RMS of a typical police department will collect and store:
- • Crime reports
- • Arrest reports
- • Field interview forms
- • Accident reports
- • Investigative case tracking
- • Evidence (property management)
- • Citations
- • Warrants
Usually, an RMS is limited to records directly related to law enforcement operations. It does not deal with the general business functions (budget, payroll, human resources functions, etc.) of a department. However, because of operational needs, an RMS may include the maintenance of duty rosters, law enforcement personnel records, and vehicle fleet maintenance records.
Furthermore, information may be entered into the RMS through automated field reporting, where there is real-time live access to all crime reports, and through manual data entry, where there is less chance for technical failure, although it is a slower process.
Geographic Data System: ArcGIS
ArcGIS is a geographic information system or GI software program developed by ESRI, a California-based company that has been specializing in GIS since 1969. Now used by more police departments than any other GIS software, ArcGIS gives a police agency the ability to take data from CAD or RMS, give the data a geographic location, and put them on a map.
This result does not happen automatically, and an intelligence analyst will need to be trained in the geocoding process—the process of assigning an actual location on a map based on the address given—before the informationappears on a map in a usable format. Once that happens, though, the crime analyst can conduct a spatial analysis of crimes (often referred to as hot spot identification) and find other valuable information.