Daytona: Police delve into data to get handle on crime


HOLLY HILL — By studying the past, police are predicting the future and putting a dent in crime.

September, investigators have been poring over property crime reports
in the city since 2003. Property crimes are the bulk of incidents
handled by Holly Hill officers and other law enforcement in this area.

studying the details of each incident — type of crime, and when and
where it occurred — police have been able to develop trends and
predict when a property crime suspect could strike again, said Police
Chief Mark Barker.

The method is called data mining and
predictive modeling, and it enables police departments to deploy
officers to pockets of the city where a crime is likely to occur, and
to prevent it before it does.

For Holly Hill, the practice of predicting the future has paid off.

results have been remarkable," Barker said this week. "We’ve been doing
this only since September and we have seen results almost immediately."

reading about the idea — also called intelligence-led policing —
Barker assigned an officer to dig out the department’s archives and
analyze all the property crime reports written between 2003 and
September. The reports Officer Rommel Scalf zeroed in on involved
vehicle thefts, vehicle burglaries and commercial and residential

"What we’re trying to do is to predict when certain
crimes will occur and to put officers in certain areas so that the
crimes do not occur again," Barker said. "We no longer have the luxury
of telling an officer to get into a patrol car and ride around all
night looking for something to happen."

Barker said officers assigned to work problem areas mentioned in the property crime reports do nothing else during their shifts.

"These are officers that are not answering calls for service," Barker said.

working the hot spots have gained success by talking to residents,
learning about possible suspects and conducting surveillance, Barker

In October, for example, police saw drops in all four
categories of property crimes after officers saturated neighborhoods
where problems have occurred, Barker said.

In an article for the
International Association of Law Enforcement Analysts, Temple
University criminal justice professor Jerry Ratcliffe wrote, "Once
crime problems emerge, they linger until resolved; when organized crime
groups identify a weakness they can exploit, they continue until some
sort of disturbing influence is introduced." Ratcliffe is also a former
officer with the Metropolitan Police in London.

In November, Ratcliffe’s statement bore out in Holly Hill.

police concentrated on the area where burglaries historically struck,
the crimes stopped there. However, residential burglaries spiked in
other parts of the city, Barker said.

According to a recent
article in Police Chief magazine, data mining and predictive modeling
was borne from the same concept as COMPSTAT, a crime mapping system
that originated more than 20 years ago in New York City.

Beach police and dozens of other law enforcement agencies use that
method. It involves meetings where uniformed officers, detectives and
command staff discuss crime trends. Based on statistics collected for
the sessions, police develop strategies to reduce criminal activity.

the past decade, DeLand police have been doing something similar to
what Holly Hill and Daytona Beach are employing. Police statistician
Jeff Burns, who studies where car and residential burglaries occur,
creates maps for patrol officers, investigators and the crime
suppression team. The maps, which show where the crimes occur and their
gravity, have helped officers make multiple arrests, said DeLand police
Sgt. John Anderson.

"It’s another tool that shows our officers
the pattern of these crimes and where in their patrol zones they
occur," Anderson said. "It gives a focal point to investigators and
patrol officers to know where they need to give more attention."

For Holly Hill’s Chief Barker, such policing methods make the best use of the resources and officers in lean economic times.

we know that historically we’ve had a problem in a certain area, it’s
foolish not to place an officer there in anticipation of something."