Police target crooks with biz intelligence: User buy-in makes all the difference

Western Australia Police has shifted from "inflicting computer systems" onto end users with its latest attempt to bring intelligence to the police beat.

WA Police, realising targeted patrolling makes the most effective use of limited resources, has implemented a business intelligence system from Seagate Software that gives information on incidents that occur state-wide down to individual police station locations.

Sergeant Phil McLachlan of the WA Police Service said: "In the past we have simply inflicted computer systems on officers in the street.

"As a result some databases are not being used to their full advantage."

But the WA Police Service hopes the Insight system will help officers target crime in more effective ways. Using the system, information is drawn from numerous disparate corporate databases that hold offence data and is presented in standard maps, graphs and reports to officers in charge (OIC), said McLachlan.

Historically, this information was difficult to collate and understand, with police officers manually extracting and plotting incident information.

"Up until now, officers relied on anecdotal evidence [to decide] where they should patrol," McLachlan said.

"With Insight, officers now have visual representations of where problems might arise," he said.

And although the system is in its pilot stage, police have already used it to target "hotspots" with successful results.

"Officers found a pattern emerging at one suburb where a spate of burglaries was occurring," McLachlan told Computerworld.

"The system alerted police officers to the pattern, and they captured three offenders who were charged with a string of burglaries related not only to that area but to other suburbs as well."

Without the Insight program, officers would have had to rely on information up to seven days old from their local District information support centre, McLachlan said.

However, a prime success factor in making this system work was getting "end-user buy-in", he said.

"It is easier to implement a computer system than to get user support. Plus, we had to effectively force a cultural shift to targeted policing," he said.

To avoid the usual reaction of "Oh no, here they come again", police officers were consulted on what they wanted from the system, taking "ownership" through being part of the building stage, McLachlan said.

Additionally, key benefits of targeted policing and effective uses of resources were explained to the officers.

WA Police targeted policing system

* The application extracts incident reports from a DB2 database onto a Unix server running Oracle as a giant data warehouse.

* Seagate Info, which is running on an NT Super Server connected to the Oracle Server, creates and processes the required reports. These are made available to the client locations overnight.

* The information is provided visually on a map of the district that enables the officer In charge using a combination of MapInfo and Seagate Info client software to act on the data.

* The officer can then allocate police to target patrols in locations with high incidence of crime.

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