City data mapping helps pinpoint crime~ RH Article April 1, 2015
City data mapping helps pinpoint crime
By Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli
RH Staff Writer | April 01, 2015
Rutland City’s overall crime rate dropped 17 percent from 2013 to 2014, according to Rutland City’s acting police chief.
“Burglaries are down 34 percent and shoplifting 25 percent,” David Covell said. “Only 17 percent of calls for service are crime related.”
With the help of data mapping tools, police can pinpoint specific days, times and locations of high crime activity. And with this information, shift sergeants direct officers to specific locations at specific times. For example, if the data mapping indicates an increase in crime at the shopping plaza at 1 p.m. every Wednesday, patrols are increased during that time period.
“We’ve had a 36 percent increase in directed patrols,” Covell said. “We are able to concentrate in an area based on data.”
As if dropping bread crumbs on a trail, criminals often lead police to their door. Activities such as increased foot traffic to a home or apartment, a steady stream of cars stopping momentarily and discarded drug paraphernalia might prompt a visit from police.
It’s not uncommon for Sgt. Matthew Prouty, a shift commander, to get an address tip from the mapping reports and knock on the door to discuss this activity and ask that it stop.
Drug marketplace interventions such as this are often successful in halting drug activity, Capt. Scott Tucker said.
When the idea of data mapping started to take shape for Rutland City Police in 2012, the culture of Rutland was depressed and police said things needed to change.
“Former chief Jim Baker started talking with people in neighborhoods, coffee shops,” Tucker said. “We needed to change the culture of the police department and the culture of the neighborhoods.”
After looking at such things as hot-spot policing; Rutland police modeled their program, Rut-Stat, after the Com-Stat model in New York City. And data mapping officially began in the summer of 2013.
A 10- to 12-block area in the northwest neighborhood was initially targeted because of blight and drug markets, but as mapping skills evolved they realized that targeting specific locations is more effective.
“I go in and pull out data on a two-week period,” said Bradley GoodHale, crime analyst for Rutland. “These are data points that allow us to track drug activity for instance … we compare times and trends.”
Anyone can go to crimereports.com and get some of the data GoodHale looks at every day. A map of the area illustrates the crimes by address, including time of day and a basic description of the offense.
Many of the calls for police are quality of life concerns such as noise, barking dogs, domestic problems, mental health issues; service calls can even include issues such as rundown properties.
Because of data mapping, along with the efforts of Project Vision, more experienced individuals can be brought into the picture to help the community.
“We might need the building inspector or the women’s shelter,” Tucker said. “We look at locations and root causes of problems, addressing these root causes. Cops are not trained to help people with mental health issues.”
Since data mapping began, quality of life calls to police have dropped 8.6 percent, Covell said. And tips from individuals have increased, offering even more information on particular locations.
“In the last two years of community outreach, a lot more people are reporting suspicious behavior,” he said. “Animal complaints top the list.”
Also, through Project VISION, police work with the Department of Corrections, and when examining data, they are able to compare increases in crime to information on where DOC supervised individuals are living.
“We may not know everybody, but they do and they can offer more insight,” Tucker said.
The Rutland program, though modeled after a large metropolitan program, has been modified to a rural environment.
“What’s going on here is the most innovative program for not only Vermont, but in the country,” Covell said.