Threats to public safety are constantly evolving and law enforcement organisations must adapt and take advantage of new technology to better protect members of the public.
From tackling gun and drug trafficking to solving violent crimes and monitoring the opioid epidemic, the New York State Police (NYSP) has been delivering critical insights with geospatial technology to better optimise team deployment and analyse patterns in criminal activity.
In this special interview, NYSP Senior Intelligence Analyst Kellen Crouse answers questions from the user community and provides deeper insights on how his team has used GIS to get ahead of crises.
Q. How do you collaborate or share data with the local law enforcement agencies in New York City?
A. When we collaborate with New York City local law enforcement and other cities throughout the state or county government, they’re usually reaching out directly to us. They’re smaller departments and don’t have the same capabilities. They don’t have the same units or software – so they’re sharing their information and case work with us and hoping that we can help fill in the gaps in their investigation to better understand what happened with something.
A lot of that sharing might be directly through old school methods like email, flash drive or even a disk that’s dropped off to us that we then need to process and share back. Sometimes it’s as simple as PDFs. When it comes to other states and other fusion centres like ours – which bring together local, state and federal law enforcement – we have ArcGIS portal-to-portal collaboration where we have information behind our secure server but can share that with other law enforcement teams without sharing too much publicly. As I mentioned in the last question, we want to protect people’s information.
There is also the ArcGIS hub where more law enforcement agencies share public information. Rochester in Western New York has a great site where they share information on 911 calls, burglaries and other kinds of crime with the public. It’s anonymised but they can tell what’s going on in their neighbourhood and city, and how safe they are.
Q. To what extent has ArcGIS helped the New York State Intelligence Centre to prevent crimes? Has the allocation of resources based on data resulted in more arrests?
A. The capabilities in ArcGIS have been invaluable to our work reducing crime. In terms of arrests, ArcGIS Pro has helped us identify suspects in burglaries, motor vehicle thefts, and homicides. We've then used our analyses at trial to prove the prosecution's case and prevent future crimes (particularly in the case of serial offenders like theft rings). We have used location analysis to identify drug trafficking and supply patterns. We can then target investigations to remove criminal drug networks.
Q. How do you find the political implications of data regarding ethnicity and criminality? Are there any issues when you correlate sensitive data?
A. When it comes to data sharing – particularly if we’re sharing with the public – that’s where the sensitivity really comes in. It limits us sometimes with putting out that information.
Most of our requests are coming directly from law enforcement partners – police records, traffic stops, arrests or evidence data – so we’re already part of that investigation. If we were going to do a map of crimes that are taking place in a city, we have to protect the location of a victim’s home in a violent crime. We don’t want to be putting that where anybody could check.
It's also very important to understand that in this field correlation does not equal causation. We may see higher arrest numbers among a particular group, but what other factors are at play? We conduct analyses to determine which variables can explain fluctuations in crime, not what group to blame.
We also do not base investigations or patrols on demographic statistics in any way. Police patrols are not intended to look for ‘bad guys’ to arrest – their goal is to protect residents. Our analyses do not identify a neighbourhood for increased patrols based on prior arrest numbers, but instead on calls-for-service and the local residents’ need for increased public safety measures.
Q. You showed us analysing data over time to solve a robbery and then you mentioned being in court. How would you share this kind of information with a judge?
A. In that particular situation, I usually share it as an animation and then incorporate the video into a PowerPoint presentation that might have photos of the suspect’s vehicle that they fled in and any evidence found in it. We might also have slides showing other movement data and where our suspect lived. In our time example, they were up on the northern border and headed down into the city.
If we know there were stolen goods and they were selling it, we might put the pawn shop or second-hand store on there. We might incorporate static maps as well as animations and videos to tell the complete story of what we were able to analyse and put together from that evidence and then share that with the jury.
Q. You mentioned a fusion centre before, is that similar to our crisis coordination centres here in Australia?
A. I believe it is. We have them set up in each state. Some have different roles. Some are very concerned about what they call all-hazards that may have to do with the COVID-19 or the wildfires out in California. Some of them are just focused on trying to reduce crime within the state and sharing information with local, state and federal law enforcement partners to protect against potential terrorist attacks. I think it’s very similar where we stand up for an emergency event or a crisis but we’re also there 24/7, 365 days a year to make sure we’re always sharing information and working together.
Q. In an emergency call, how do you gather and engage with live data such as traffic information flows?
A. If I were to step back to a few years ago when I worked as a local crime analyst in Baltimore City in Maryland and we were doing real-time crime analysis – I was not lucky enough to have live traffic information. When we did have calls come through, we’d have an ADL map of all of our unit’s locations and their vehicles as well as officers, other 911 calls and aerial units.
If we knew there was a call going on nearby, we could pull officers from it – if it was something minor – or if there was something we had to steer away from, such as a major sporting event, the dispatch units would usually be plugged in to that data to help them get to where they need to be as soon as possible.
Q. Where is Cell Phone Analysis? Is it in ArcGIS Pro?
A. The Cell Phone Analysis tools are available as part of Esri's Crime Analysis Solution.
Q. Is the dashboard showcased in your Ozri presentation available publicly?
A. Information about the HIDTA ODMAP program is available to view but the data itself is not publicly available to protect the identities of drug overdose victims. Public safety organisations in the USA can gain access by signing up for the program.
Q. Do you have a dashboard for 911 call takers?
A. The New York State Police does not currently use any dashboards for our Communications division, but that's a very interesting idea. The closest we have is one for our dispatchers to submit overdose incidents to the ODMAP system. Officers on scene report the details of the overdose and dispatchers submit the record.
Q. What is the process from receiving 911 calls to dispatching jobs to police?
A. Drawing on my previous experience in real-time crime analysis, typically the dispatcher tries to keep the 911 caller on the phone as long as possible to answer questions and provide the most complete picture of the situation. The dispatcher inputs shorthand notes into a computer aided dispatch (CAD) program which is shared in real-time directly to the officers' in-car computers. Through this process, the assigned responding units can access their initial assignment, immediately begin to respond, and get the finer details of the emergency and any potential dangers without wasting any time.
This is one of four Q&A blogs with keynote presenters from Ozri 2020. Read the Q&As with Norman Disney and Young’s John Benstead, Esri’s Global Data Science Lead Lauren Bennett and Product Engineer Ankita Bakshi, and Esri’s Global Director of Artificial Intelligence Omar Maher.
If you’d like more information on how geospatial technology can aid public safety, call 1800 870 750 or submit an enquiry.