Credit where credit is due

While economic factors are at play, law enforcement is also working smarter, trying new approaches and following crime data closely.

Shawnee PD Crime Analyst Susan Smith likens the DDACTS approach to sending six fishermen who need to catch as many fish as they can in 6 to 8 hours, to an area where fish tend to congregate. “It’s finding where and when in your city you have the highest volume of crime and the highest volume of crashes,” she describes. “It’s all based on data. There’s nothing to buy, no overtime. It’s very specific, directed patrol and an attempt to, in our case and in the case of most agencies, reduce stranger crime more than any other and at the same time reduce crashes.” (Total collisions fell 21 percent in the DDACTS target zone, compared to 1 percent in the rest of the city.)

Some agencies use Microsoft Access databases and Microsoft Excel to analyze the data, and then map it. Shawnee PD uses the ATAC Workstation for crime pattern analysis, predictive analytics, crime mapping and intelligence analysis, and Esri’s ArcView, now referred to as ArcGIS for Desktop Basic.

Bruce says, “The types of incidents that declined are exactly the ones you would expect to decline when you saturate an area with flashing lights: profit-motivated crimes, usually committed outdoors, by mobile offenders who must pass through key intersections to get to the crime locations.

“While it’s possible that high-volume offenders were among the 151 arrested, I think it’s far more likely that the police simply suppressed the opportunity for such offenses to occur—scared the offenders away, so to speak.”

Smith adds even after officers leave, there are ripple effects; people are mindful that the police were there and frequent the area.

Online help and electronic reporting

Leo Carter, treasurer/presenter for the International Association of Property Crimes, says law enforcement agencies have been successful in tracking down stolen property with the help of online property reporting systems and municipalities requiring second-hand stores (including pawn shops, jewelry stores and scrap metal yards) to enter transaction data into these systems. Commercial systems interface with the National Crime Information Center and state databases. If there’s a hit, officers receive an alert.

For example, when Carter, a detective with the Milwaukee (Wis.) PD, entered a suspect’s name into a national online system, LeadsOnline, he found almost $70,000 worth of jewelry had been sold to a Texas jeweler. The system helped Carter learn where the Milwaukee suspect was selling the stolen diamonds, obtain a description of the jewelry, find out where the suspect was selling the jewelry, and even find out how much the suspect was paid.

According to LeadsOnline Communications Director Lindsay Williams, LeadsOnline, with hundreds of millions of records from throughout the United States, is the nation’s largest online system used by law enforcement to recover stolen property, help stop meth makers, reduce metal theft and solve crimes. More than 1,900 local agencies use LeadsOnline, and businesses from all 50 states report to LeadsOnline.

The Pawn Unit in the Criminal Investigations Division of the Indianapolis Metropolitan PD (IMPD) uses LeadsOnline to monitor transactions at pawn shops and scrap metal yards. The agency has been using LeadsOnline since 2009, reports IMPD Sgt. Dennis Fishburn. Before that, the unit used an old mainframe system, and a clerk had to input data from paper pawn tickets. Within the first year of implementing LeadsOnline, IMPD reduced data entry of paper tickets by 82 percent, leading to a 90 percent increase in cases assigned to detectives. Today businesses report transactions electronically to LeadsOnline and officers can access the information online. Being able to search items quickly is important, as Indianapolis has a seven-day police hold.

“If we can attach a hold to a property before it gets sold, it solves a lot of problems,” Fishburn says, noting there is no cost to the businesses for the program.

IMPD also uses LeadsOnline’s eBay First Responder tool. A partnership between LeadsOnline and eBay lets law enforcement locate possible stolen merchandise listed for sale or sold on eBay. While eBay has a fraud investigations team, Williams says using eBay First Responder gives detectives instant access to information that would otherwise only be available through a subpoena or letterhead request. About 2,000 agencies use eBay First Responder Service.

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