Police data miners help keep tabs on criminals

By Doug Schmidt

Windsor’s career criminals are being put on notice – you could be under police surveillance from the moment you step out of jail.

The Windsor Police Service released its annual crime statistics report Thursday and, almost across the board, crime rates were down in 2011. In some categories, the drop was substantial.

Last year’s two attempted murders were the fewest since 2004. Assaults were down 15 per cent (assaults against police dropped by a quarter, from 104 incidents to 76); vehicle thefts were down 17 per cent, and youth crimes have declined 46 per cent in four years.

Robberies were down more than nine per cent and criminal harassment complaints fell 15 per cent.

The city’s property crimes are down 44 per cent from seven years ago, including a nine per cent drop in 2011.

The numbers are „absolutely off the chart … really incredible,“ Deputy Chief Jerome Brannagan told members of the police board.

Part of the credit, he said, goes to citizens increasingly willing to come forward with tips or as witnesses to crimes, but one of the real game-changers in Windsor’s war on lawlessness is a ramped-up „intelligence-led policing“ effort.

Information, tips and data on criminals have always been collected, but Brannagan said it used to be „very difficult to mine that information.“

Analysts backed by sophisticated computer programs are now culling the raw tips and data coming in, looking at trends and similarities and mapping the information.

„Then we sic the dogs on them,“ Brannagan said of what follows once front-line officers are fed the results.

An example was last year’s arrest and conviction of a serial burglar who was striking the Walkerville neighbourhood, so bold that he would enter homes when the residents were asleep and leave mocking notes to his victims.

„We mined that information and came up with a potential target,“ said Brannagan.

Using intelligence-led policing, he said investigators were able to map the area and pinpoint where the perpetrator would likely strike next, estimate the right time and even identify potential suspects based on perpetrator histories. It all came together one morning with a 4 a.m. arrest.

„It’s having a huge impact … we have great success,“ Brannagan said of crime data mining and analysis.

And it’s not just for crimes.

Brannagan said motor vehicle accident numbers are also down across Windsor, in part as a result of analysts tabulating and then mapping where the crashes are occurring at what times. Patrol officers are then strategically deployed to those sites proactively.

This year will see a big focus on tackling what Brannagan calls the „unacceptable“ level of break and enters plaguing the city. Last year’s 1,395 burglaries were down slightly from 1,406 in 2010, but Brannagan said the department sees it as „a very personal type of crime,“ and one that seems to be committed by the same people over and over again.

Hence the idea of having cops keep a close eye on who’s exiting Windsor Jail.

„We’re targeting known criminals,“ said Brannagan.

When it comes to employing creative crime-fighting techniques, he said local police are „pushing the envelope.“

Last year saw Windsor’s two-year murder-free streak broken, but Brannagan said Windsor’s exceptionally low homicide rate is still mentioned admiringly in cities across America.

Windsor police investigated 14,236 Criminal Code matters last year, down from 15,332 in 2010.

More than 1,000 fewer crimes in a year likely translates into thousands fewer Windsorites who are directly victimized or affected by crime, said Brannagan.

Source: http://www.windsorstar.com/news/Police+data+miners+help+keep+tabs+criminals/6346454/story.html