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Durham, NC, police using technology to boost policing effectiveness

The Durham, N.C., Police Department is using analytical policing techniques through the use of both technology and human analysis of data to create a better view of current conditions. The department has two teams that focus on the data and analysis aspects of police work, according to local news station WNCN. The two groups use both software programs and big data analysis to make determinations that will help patrol officers, detectives and other local members of law enforcement do their jobs. The work isn't glamorous and involves a lot of time and effort to be successful, according to Jason Schiess, an analyst with the Durham Police Department.

Police in Durham NC are using datadriven policing to their advantage

"At the most basic level, they are looking at weekly crime trends to see where crimes are happening," Schiess told WNCN. "Whether there is any pattern to those crimes to indicate that the same person or individual maybe involved."

The crux of the effort involves software programs that mine data from incoming officer reports. The statistical analysis performed automatically, as well as the trained, in-depth insight of officers on the Crime Analysis teams, helps to identify trends in terms of geography and other factors. The analysts and computer programs also look for similarities between different incidents, helping to tie events together and develop a modus operandi for a criminal before that person is even caught.

"Heat" mapping an effective approach in nearby Cary, N.C.
One of the nearby sister cities of Durham is Cary, N.C., where a "heat" map is used to determine where crime control efforts are most needed. Using many of the same techniques as in Durham, the Cary Police Department maps out the frequency of crimes and other incidents in its confines and directs patrols to these high-intensity areas. A benefit cited by the department is that resources are more effectively committed to parts of the city that need the most attention. Such efforts in Cary have proven effective. It was ranked by the FBI as the safest city in the U.S. for its size group, between 100,000 and 500,000, according to local news source the Cary Citizen.

As WNCN pointed out, there's a major difference between the analytical police work done by real officers and the scenarios often presented on television and in movies. As part of an overall law enforcement strategy, data measurement and analysis is proving its importance.


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