With limited staff resources available to tackle crime, how can Police Charleroi focus on the most important and urgent issues, measure its effectiveness over time, and keep stakeholders informed?
By performing statistical analyses on incident data, Police Charleroi produces heat-maps and dashboards to help deploy resources in the right places, at the right times, to improve crime prevention.
Statisticalrigor ensures that decisions are based on reality rather than gut-feelings
Richreports and dashboards augment situational awareness for field officers
Trendanalysis keeps the organization on track with objectives to reduce crime
Business challenge story
Police Charleroi has approximately 900 uniformed officers to cover a largely urbanized area with a population of more than 200,000 people. Its crime-fighting resources are restricted by the fixed maximum number of hours that each member of staff can work each year. In order to understand and focus on priorities, and to measure its effectiveness in dealing with these priorities over time, the organization has developed a data-driven approach to ensure that its operations are grounded in reality rather than gut-feelings.
For more than ten years, Police Charleroi’s analytical weapon of choice has been IBM® SPSS® Statistics, which provides an integrated suite of tools for collecting, cleaning, aggregating, analyzing and reporting on data. The solution draws operational data from Belgium’s national ISLP (Information Systems for Local Police) data warehouse, using it to produce a broad range of live dashboards and daily and monthly reports.
Valérie Dupire, Counsellor at Police Charleroi, comments: “Information is critical to our work as a police force. Without intelligence on criminal activity, we cannot direct our resources towards the most urgent and important activities. Unless we understand how our operations affect crime rates over time, we cannot make the best use of our resources with intelligent initiatives that will have a positive impact.”
Plan, act, measure
Every four years, Police Charleroi works with the local government to create a new “Zonal Plan” in which activities are prioritized and targets are set. The statistical analysis of crime rates and police activities forms a key input into the plan, helping decision-makers see which types of crime are prevalent, how they are evolving and how they can best be prevented. With this information in hand, the focus areas can be set accordingly (at the time of writing, these include: burglaries, illegal waste dumping, theft from vehicles, the sale and use of narcotics, and the sale and use of false documentation for social security fraud).
“Our strategic objectives are set with significant input from the statistical analyses that we carry out in SPSS Statistics,” comments Valérie Dupire. “We produce a range of daily reports and dashboards tailored for each individual service within the force, enabling them to see where and how to focus their resources, and also to check their performance and effectiveness over time. For senior officers, we provide reports that enable them to evaluate the performance of individual staff members, and we also deliver a weekly report to the mayor containing top-level information on crime rates and police activities to address them.”
The two-person analytics team within Police Charleroi also uses SPSS Statistics to generate reports for a municipal service that aims to prevent misdemeanors, and to supply anonymized statistics on demand to journalists and researchers. The team uses scripts to automate reporting processes—for example, when exporting pivot tables. Most reports and dashboards are updated every morning and published to the Police Charleroi intranet portal, putting vital information directly into the hands of operational staff for greater situational awareness. Typically, reports include trend analysis over the previous five years, providing a clear picture of how different types of criminal activity are evolving over time, and showing how effective different types of police operations have proved against them.
Reports are tailored for each specific audience in terms of their scope, granularity and degree of anonymization. The weekly report to the mayor provides an aggregated, anonymized view of the previous week’s criminal activity, including the number of arrests, vehicle stops, identity checks and so on. It also shows the tendency over the preceding month, and against the same period in the previous year. Similarly, a monthly report that currently goes out to the municipal crime prevention team shows anonymized information on recent burglaries by street. Using this information, the team can identify patterns and hot-spots, enabling them to encourage greater vigilance from those homeowners who are most at risk.
“Most reports we create include heat-maps showing how incidents of criminal activity correlate with location and time,” says Valérie Dupire. “The officers responsible for addressing each type of crime can then see where they should focus their resources to be more effective in preventing future incidents. The reports also show the historical effectiveness of police operations, so officers can adapt their activities based on an understanding of what has worked best in the past.”
Central to the analytics philosophy at Police Charleroi is the notion of feedback: data on the impact of past activities drives decisions, and the analysis of the resulting activities and their outcomes is used to enhance future decisions. For example, the organization produces reports on hot-spots (in terms of both locations and times of day) for vehicle accidents, including analyses of their severity. These reports are used to decide on the location of both temporary and permanent speed controls. As time goes by, the ongoing analysis of subsequent accidents enables field officers to measure the effectiveness of the speed controls and optimize them accordingly.
The use of statistical analysis at Police Charleroi has grown from basic reports on tendencies for certain types of crime to a more comprehensive overview of police activities and their impact on criminality. Valérie Dupire says: “Rather than just reporting on crime, we are looking at what we are doing operationally, and what we are achieving in terms of reducing crime. In this way, SPSS Analytics helps us optimize our operations. The audience and appetite for reporting has also grown significantly over the years, not least because of the ability to automatically publish refreshed information to the intranet every day.”
In addition to helping reduce crime rates, the solution provides dashboards to improve internal administrative efficiency. For example, each service within the organization has a dashboard showing the average time taken to issue penalty notices, helping reduce delays. Equally, dashboards showing coding errors help to improve the speed and quality of information submitted to the national police database.
She concludes: “SPSS Statistics is an important solution for Police Charleroi, both for increasing situational awareness in the field and for keeping all stakeholders informed about crime rates and our effectiveness in tackling them. The analyses we perform enable us to make better decisions about where and how to deploy our resources, and to see the impact of those decisions over time. Ultimately, this helps us to optimize our operations and provide a better service to the public.”
Police Charleroi is the local law-enforcement agency for the municipality of Charleroi, approximately 50 kilometers south of Brussels, the capital city of Belgium. One of the five largest local forces in the country—which all liaise with the national federal police service—Police Charleroi is responsible for providing community policing, for responding to and investigating criminal incidents, for supporting victims of crime and for maintaining public order.
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