THE ISSUE. Recent technological advances, particularly in rapid computation and data analysis, have revolutionized virtually every aspect of American life. The business world has been similarly enriched by important innovations in management theory. All these developments can and should be widely applied to the world of law enforcement.
THE IMPACT. CompSTAT, which stands for Computer Statistics or Comparative Statistics, was launched in New York City and is perhaps the best-known technological innovation in law enforcement. CompSTAT has two components. The first is software-intensive, and it uses real-time crime data to quickly allocate police resources to crime “hot spots” in cities. The second element, which concerns managerial techniques, decentralizes authority to precinct commanders and holds them accountable for changes in the crime rate within their jurisdiction. City police leaders meet with commanders on a frequent basis to discuss data findings and to plan patrol activity. These methods increase the number of criminals apprehended, but perhaps more importantly, studies suggest that the strong and visible police presence has a deterrence effect. Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani partly credits CompSTAT with the 62 percent drop in the crime rate in New York from 1993 to 2001.
Another well-known – but not widely enough adopted – technology is Chicago’s Citizen Law Enforcement Analysis and Reporting (CLEAR). The CLEAR database contains millions of incident reports and other information that officers can query using wireless, touchscreen notebooks in their cars. The data allows officers to instantly check suspects against the database of fugitives, parolees, and offenders who are wanted on warrants. A mug shot, for example, can be accessed in just seconds – rather than four days. Most significantly, CLEAR empowers community policing. Citizens use a website to find out who is policing their neighborhood so that they can efficiently relay leads about criminal activity. Chicago’s murder rate dropped from 22.1 per 100,000 in 2002 to 15.5 in 2004 following the implementation of CLEAR. The number of robberies has also declined nearly 30 percent from 2000 to 2007. Because fewer Chicagoans have been incarcerated since 1999, it is not incarceration that is yielding results. More likely, it is Chicago’s innovations in law enforcement, including CLEAR.
THE CONSERVATIVE SOLUTION.
• Increase the utilization of data-driven policing and related performance measures such as CompSTAT and CLEAR.
• Involve private security in data-driven policing to expand the knowledge base and expedite responses.
• Expand the use of GPS monitoring of parolees and probationers.
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