7/12/99: Mapping Out Crime: Highlights in Crime Mapping and Data-Driven Management


Mapping Out Crime Table of Contents



The Baltimore Police Department is using crime mapping and data-driven management to identify and track progress in high-crime areas. The department identified areas of crime associated with youths and revitalized the Police Athletic League to reach out to inner city youth. There are now 26 PAL centers in Baltimore, serving almost 10,000 young people. The program has four components: homework and academics (no athletics until homework is done), athletics, character development, and arts and culture. Families help tutor students, organize neighborhood watch groups, volunteer in the police department, and participate in activities that stamp out "crime and grime." A recent study showed that violent attacks on juveniles have decreased 44 percent in the community directly surrounding the Goodenough PAL center.

The city has also developed a comprehensive drug strategy. Baltimore has 59,000 addicts out of a population of 675,000. These addicts drive the robbery, burglary, and felony rates. With court and police systems overwhelmed (nonviolent felons are often released early, and 74.8 percent of misdemeanors are dismissed), community policing and problem-solving provide an alternative approach. "We simply can't arrest our way out of this," says the Police Commissioner. "We must reach out to the community, emphasize prevention, and find more treatment resources." Through an agreement with the police department, addiction treatment providers must reserve 35 percent of their slots for criminal justice offenders. The Commissioner notes, "We make our referrals to those providers who use graduated sanctions and have the best rates of treatment success, and then we measure results." The PAL program is another component in the city's drug strategy, since many addicts say that they had made their decision to do or not do drugs by the age of 10.

The Baltimore Police Department has introduced other innovations to serve its community. Notably, this was the first city in the nation to use 311 as a non-emergency police number, which has taken much of the burden off the 911 system. Currently, 35 percent of calls to police are coming through on 311. This has resulted in a 60 percent reduction in the average time to answer emergency calls and has created up to two hours of discretionary time per officer per shift, since they are no longer running from call to call and can put more time into proactive community policing.

Maj. George Mitchell
Planning and Research Division
Baltimore Police Department
601 East Fayette Street
Baltimore, MD 21202
(410) 396-2569


Boston is enjoying its lowest crime rates in three decades. As Police Commissioner Paul Evans noted in his 1997 annual report, "All major categories of crime decreased throughout our City, resulting in . . . 6,873 fewer victims than one year ago." Its successful initiative to reduce youth homicide is also well-known (see chapter I, "The Power of Partnership"). What is less widely known is the strategic and data-driven management approach the department uses to achieve its mission: to work in partnership with the community to fight crime, reduce fear, and improve neighborhood quality of life.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the work of Boston's police was driven by 911 calls for service. In the 1990s, on the other hand, the focus has shifted from answering phones to taking proactive measures that reflect public safety and the department's philosophy of neighborhood policing. The department not only tracks and reports on serious crimes, but also on district-specific goals, selected as part of neighborhood strategic planning processes, and on citywide measures of neighborhood safety and complaints. Additionally, twice each month, the Commissioner chairs a Crime Analysis Meeting at which each district in turn makes a presentation to the leaders of the police department, the heads of all specialized units, and representatives of the city's 11 districts. The meeting's purpose is to promote accountability and create a learning organization by spreading best practices and lessons learned across the department. Public reaction to this philosophy of accountability has been highly positive: The percentage of residents who said they felt safe walking in their neighborhood at night increased from 55 percent in 1995 to 75 percent two years later, according to the Boston Public Safety Survey.

Collaborative strategic planning and analysis of crime and other safety problems facing communities are part of Boston's approach to policing. For example, in 1994-95, the police department prepared a 16-volume strategic plan that reflected months of work with neighborhoods across the city. Each district worked with stakeholders to develop district-specific plans, soliciting input from citizens as well as from patrol officers. Beat teams in each district now use the SARA (Scanning, Analysis, Response, and Assessment) problem-solving process to address a priority problem in their neighborhood. The districts also map crime and other statistics and routinely use a geographic information system to analyze problems. Perhaps the most striking feature of Boston's approach is the wide variety of partners involved at both the neighborhood and citywide levels to promote community safety. The Commissioner notes that what is making a difference is the willingness of "people to step outside of traditional roles." The clergy are working with the police. The police are working with communities and large industries such as John Hancock. Nonprofit organizations are engaged in developing and achieving strategic plans. And the Department of Labor and the U.S. Attorney are working with police to find jobs for high-risk youth. According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Report, serious crime in Boston declined 44 percent from 1992 to 1997.

Jim Jordan
Director of Strategic Planning
Boston Police Department
1 Schroeder Plaza
Boston, MA 02120
(617) 343-4507


"Trying to prevent the next crime" is the goal of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department of North Carolina. To this end, the department has a community policing philosophy that relies—and relies heavily—on mapping crime statistics alongside other information. Currently, street officers have access to 14 pages of separate data elements, ranging from parole violations to bus stops and streetlight locations—collected by multiple city and county agencies, including the tax assessor's, public works, planning, and sanitation departments. The police department is thus able to make links between disorder and crime that have been instrumental in supporting the community policing philosophy.

The way it works is this. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department intervenes in crime and social disorder problems by gathering information from any and all city agencies to determine the most reliable remedy for a given problem. Information integration is the key. It is the basis for the department's analysis of a given situation and for a preventive, proactive approach that is fueled by the linking of databases from agencies in the city, county, or surrounding jurisdictions. By compiling information from as many sources as possible, officers and analysts are able to increase their understanding of the problem they may be facing.

For example, an abandoned building attracts criminal activity. Through its geographic information system, the police department can identify the owner, the residents, the tax status of the property, whether the property is illuminated by a streetlight, and how close establishments selling alcohol are to the property. Using this information, analysts and officers look for the best course of action by addressing the underlying causes that contribute to crime.

The police department is now equipping officers with laptop computers and encouraging them to share information with the public. The county has established an on-line resource—"http://www.charweb.org/">Charlotte's Web"—that gives the public easy access to social service information.

Although the data are not precisely comparable because of the merger of the Charlotte and Mecklenburg Police Departments, serious crime has declined significantly, dropping an estimated 34 percent between 1992 and 1997.

Dr. Richard Lumb
Research Planning and Crime Analysis
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department
601 East Trade Street
Charlotte, NC 28202-2940
(704) 336-2162


ICAM—Information Collection for Automated Mapping—is an easy-to-use computerized mapping program designed to help Chicago police officers analyze and work with the city's communities to solve neighborhood crime problems. With ICAM, beat officers and other police personnel can pull up timely, accurate maps of beat, sector, district, or citywide crime incidents, analyzed by time of day and day of week. This "snapshot" of what is going on helps officers look for trends and hot spots; it then lets them work together with community members to develop responses to problems. The system also provides maps that are shared with Neighborhood Watch, Ameritech Cellular Phone Patrols, and other community groups.

Using ICAM, the 24th District detected a pattern of armed robberies with a knife near Clark and Greenleaf within the same three-hour time period. Officers set up surveillance and arrested an offender as he was trying to steal a purse at knifepoint. In the 3rd District, after residents attending a beat meeting complained about an unusually high level of criminal activity, officers returned to the station to more closely analyze the beat using ICAM. The maps showed a recent increase in burglaries and robberies. Tactical officers set up surveillance and, with a tip from the community, arrested three offenders for armed robbery with a handgun. Another ICAM success story, which made the national press, occurred last year. When the Chicago Bulls won the NBA championship in 1991, Chicago celebrations turned into riots, with cars burned and people injured. When the Bulls won again last year, the Chicago Police Department mapped incoming 911 calls to find out where mobs were forming, fires were being set, and shots were being fired—and got police to the scene fast. This tactic helped keep the celebrations from again erupting into riots.

Barbara B. McDonald
Assistant Deputy Superintendent
Research and Development Division
Chicago Police Department
1121 South State Street, Room 401
Chicago, IL 60605
(312) 747-6204


In late 1996, a consortium of Minnesota corporations—including Honeywell, Allina, Abbott Northwestern Hospital, General Mills, and 3M—reached out to state and city officials, especially those in Minneapolis and St. Paul, to focus attention on violent crime. The goal was to develop a fast-track plan that would significantly reduce violent crime, particularly the spiraling homicide rate. What's unique about what came to be called the Minnesota HEALS (Hope, Education, and Law and Safety) project is that no new government money was sought: Rather, this was—and remains—a corporate-community partnership. And it's a partnership that works.

The HEALS project comprises two main working groups: a law enforcement working group, focused on crime analysis; and a corporate-community working group, which looks at prevention in terms of job training, mentoring, housing, legislation, and the overall corporate role in community building.

The law enforcement group met for the first time in February 1997 and included representatives from the mayor's and police departments of Minneapolis and St. Paul, the Minnesota State Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the County District Attorney, probation and parole offices, the U.S. Attorney's Office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the FBI. They looked at successful crime reduction programs in Boston, New York, and elsewhere, and then contracted with Harvard's Kennedy School of Government to do a detailed analysis of homicides. This homicide study went back 3 ½ years and looked at every homicide in the city of Minneapolis. The conclusion was that the dramatic increase in homicides was disproportionately gang-related, carried out by chronic offenders, and included a cycle of retaliation.

The working group briefed the community on its findings and developed a strategy focused on the most violent gangs. It quickly carried out a two-pronged plan of attack. The police department's gang unit, the U.S. Attorney's Office, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms picked up the core of the city's most violent gang on federal weapons charges. Simultaneously, teams of police and probation officers visited the city's top 300 gang members. The message they carried was that Minneapolis would no longer tolerate violent gang crime.

Meanwhile, the corporate-community working group focused on crime prevention in the community. The efforts included housing (Honeywell committed to build 53 units of housing in one neighborhood); jobs (Abbot Northwestern Hospital and Allina agreed to make available 150 jobs for neighborhood residents); increased corporate mentoring; and political pressures to extend the school day from 1:45 p.m. to 3:15 p.m.

What had been an escalating homicide rate was reversed almost immediately. Homicides from 1996 to 1997 dropped from 86 to 58. All told, it took six months to put the operation in place, and its impact on homicide was quick and dramatic. To have a broader impact on serious crime in the region, Minnesota HEALS is now working on violence and drugs.

Inspector Sharon Lubinski
Minneapolis Police Department
Downtown Command
29 South Fifth Street
Minneapolis, MN 55406
(612) 673-2776

Patricia Hoven
Vice President for Social Responsibility
Honeywell, Inc.
Honeywell Plaza
P.O. Box 524
Minneapolis, MN 55440­0524
(612) 951-0430


In 1994, when William Bratton became Police Commissioner of the New York Police Department, he adapted many of the strategies he had used in successfully reengineering the city's Transit Police Department. He used focus groups, interviews, and other techniques to assess the state of the department and then, relatively quickly, established seven objectives to provide direction to a fragmented organization of 31,000 sworn members: get guns off the streets, curb youth violence in the schools and on the streets, drive drug dealers out of the city, break the cycle of domestic violence, reclaim the city's public spaces, reduce auto-related crime, and root out corruption and build organizational integrity in the police department itself.

CompStat—a computer-supported crime statistics mapping and management system—was introduced to support achievement of these seven objectives. CompStat rests on four principles:

  • Accurate and Timely Intelligence: In 1994, New York crime data were available on a quarterly basis only, although law enforcement officials and academics alike believed that timely and rapid analysis of crime information was essential. NYPD leadership began mapping crime incidents, using accurate and current crime data, and holding twice-weekly discussions of the data displayed on maps with all command staff present.

  • Effective Tactics: Until the early 1990s, most police operations were reactive in nature: Patrol consisted primarily of answering calls for service in a well-defined beat and taking reports. In contrast, "effective tactics" are proactive and bring about crime reduction when they are developed after studying and analyzing accurate and timely crime intelligence. NYPD takes the effective tactics route through regular meetings held for the explicit purpose of examining problems and applying every possible idea and resource to those problems. CompStat facilitates this process. Needs for cooperation are addressed on the spot, and no one leaves the meeting until the tasks, and the cooperation needed to accomplish them, are well-defined.

  • Rapid Deployment of Personnel and Resources: Once a tactical plan has been developed, an array of people and other necessary resources are promptly deployed. These are generally drawn from several units to operate as a team; CompStat allows for their prompt identification and deployment.

  • Relentless Follow-up and Assessment: The final element of the CompStat crime control model is perhaps the most difficult—and most important—element to sustain. The NYPD literature on CompStat explains: "By knowing how well a particular tactic worked on a particular crime or quality of life problem, and by knowing which specific elements of the tactical response worked most effectively, we are better able to construct and implement effective responses for similar problems in the future. The follow-up and assessment process also permits us to re-deploy resources to meet newly identified challenges once a problem has abated."
According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Report, serious crime in New York declined more than 70 percent between 1992 and 1997.

Police departments implementing CompStat-like processes include Baltimore, Boston, Jacksonville (Florida), Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Newark, and Prince George's County (Maryland).

New York's CompStat is perhaps the most publicly reviewed mapping and management system in the country. For more information about it, see: James L. Heskett, "NYPD New," case study for class discussion (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School, 1996); NYPD, Office of Management and Analysis, "The COMPSTAT Process" (1995); and Eli B. Silverman, "Mapping Change: How the New York City Police Department Re-engineered Itself to Drive Down Crime," Law Enforcement News, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York 22(457): 12.

Deputy Commissioner
Public Information Office
New York City Police Department
1 Police Plaza
New York, NY 10038
(212) 374-6700


In Pittsburgh, mapping and community policing have evolved together over time, with resulting dramatic drops in crime. Community policing began in Pittsburgh in 1992 and is now the guiding philosophy of the entire department, with all officers trained in community policing techniques. At least one community police officer is assigned to each of the city's 88 neighborhoods to walk the beat, interact with residents, identify problems, and attend community meetings where a structured, collaborative approach is used to solve problems. These community police officers regularly lead or attend neighborhood-based and zone council meetings. "Community Meeting Sheets" are generated to list problems, ideas, or recommendations and—more importantly—to write out the collaborative action plan showing how each problem or solution will be funneled to the right city department and who will do what to follow up. All community police officers have pagers; residents know both their community officer and his or her beeper number, and many non-emergency calls that would normally go to 911 now go directly to the community officer.

Mapping technologies have also been used by the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police since 1992. Today, all streets have been mapped, and command staff and community officers use these maps and crime data daily. Police officials hold monthly meetings so all command staff review all crime statistics and develop strategies for attacking specific problems.

From 1992 to 1997, the serious crime rate in Pittsburgh went down 41 percent. The city's emphasis on community policing has had important qualitative effects as well, notably a new sensitivity to cultural diversity and gender. The police department is creating a cultural diversity program, including a survey on race relations. Also, the department ranks among the top few in the country for women officers, both on the force and in command positions.

Sgt. Lavonnie Bickerstaff
Pittsburgh Bureau of Police
100 Grant Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
(412) 255-2814


The Redlands, California, Police Department has transformed its mission from simply apprehending criminals to controlling crime before it occurs. As the city's Police Chief, Jim Bueermann, explains, "We need to understand the nature and location of risk factors—in families, communities, schools, peer groups—and develop strategies to solve and prevent community problems. We are paid to get criminals, but our added-value is found in the other, long-term approaches we are taking to make the community safer." By consolidating housing, recreation, and senior services into the police department; melding geographic information systems technology with social research; and utilizing the concept of risk-focused policing; the department supports a comprehensive set of strategies to make Redlands a safe and protective community for its youth and their families. For example, Redlands uses maps that show at-risk neighborhoods to set priorities for its housing dollars. First-time homebuyers or families seeking funds to rehabilitate housing in at-risk neighborhoods go to the head of the list for funding.

The department uses similar techniques to prevent adolescent problem behaviors such as substance abuse, delinquency, violence, dropping out of school, and teen pregnancy. It conducted surveys of public school students and then pinpointed the neighborhoods to which resident youth feel little attachment; this sense of alienation is one of the risk factors that might predict delinquency. The department then created a mobile recreation program as a way to introduce after-school services in these neighborhoods. It provided its mobile command post, which had previously only been used in emergencies, as a safe, quiet place where youth could do their homework.

The department has found that maps are compelling ways to present data to community groups. Recently, the Police Chief shared department maps showing high-risk neighborhoods with members of the faith community. The congregations immediately stepped forward with special offerings to start Peace Leaders—a violence prevention program for K-12—in the public school in the most high-risk neighborhood. Police Chief Bueermann comments, "The police department is our community's largest consumer of tax dollars, and we need to be good stewards of that investment. It is our contract with the communities we serve. Mapping risk and protective factors lets us put tax dollars, and the resources of our community partners, where there is a high concentration of risk factors and strategically leverage the community's investment in public safety and problem prevention."

James Bueermann
Redlands Police Department
212 Brookside Avenue
Redlands, CA 92373
(909) 798-7661


The San Diego Police Department has used computerized crime mapping since 1989 as part of its successful crime reduction strategy. Its earliest crime mapping efforts were simple snapshots of criminal activity with little analysis. In 1994, however, the department reorganized itself around the concept of neighborhood problem-solving and delineated patrol beats by neighborhood rather than by precinct. This proactive strategy of neighborhood problem-solving takes direct aim at the elements that contribute to criminal activity by encouraging officers to look beyond an individual crime to the underlying causes of crime.

The strategy relies on a form of a data-driven problem-solving model known as SARA: Scanning, Analysis, Response, and Assessment. In practice, this means that beat officers work very closely with crime analysts trying to detect the conditions that drive crime. They use sophisticated crime mapping tools and laptop computers in the field to detect patterns and neighborhood hot spots. Once separate, officers and crime analysts now work together to solve neighborhood problems. They also use crime mapping technology to bring residents and business owners into the problem-solving process. The enhanced communication between the two groups is mutually beneficial. Crime analysts are exposed to the micro, "street level" approach to fighting crime as seen through the eyes of the line officer. And officers are exposed to crime at a macro level where neighborhood patterns are clearly visible. The relationship leads to better communication and a heightened ability to analyze problems through a collaborative approach.

Between 1992 and 1997, serious crime—including murder, rape, assault, and burglary—declined 61 percent in San Diego, one of the most dramatic declines in the nation.

John Welter
Assistant Chief
Office of Neighborhood Policing
San Diego Police Department
1401 Broadway
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 531-2770


Hillsborough County, Florida, suffered an unprecedented 34 domestic violence homicides in 1994. In response, the Tampa Police Department; the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office; the Spring of Tampa Bay, Inc., a certified domestic violence shelter; the State Attorney; and the 13th Judicial Circuit formed a task force to create a seamless system to reduce domestic violence homicides. They declared a zero tolerance philosophy, asserting that coordinated and early intervention would stop the cycle of violence and prevent homicides.

Immediately, police began a mandatory arrest policy, and the prosecutor's office agreed not to drop domestic violence cases brought by complainants. As a longer term initiative, the task force established a three-day Domestic Violence Investigator's School, which has since trained 600 area law enforcement officers. Training includes how to properly investigate domestic violence calls, what to do for early intervention, and victim advocacy. Currently, there is a waiting list to get into this nationally recognized program.

The task force also found ways to reinvent and streamline the bureaucracy facing the victims, holding each agency accountable for problems and bottlenecks. The task force found, for example, that men and women who came to the courthouse to file protective "no contact" injunctions had to sit together in the same waiting room. Members visited the courthouse, found an 8x10-foot broom closet, and transformed it into a men's waiting room. Similarly, when certain forms were found to be confusing, the task force had local broadcasters tape "how to fill it out" videos in English and Spanish. The task force also developed a successful follow-up strategy—the Firehouse Squad—whereby every fire station has a police officer (on each of two shifts for 24-hour-a-day service) who contacts complainants within 7 to 10 days to assess their needs and safety. Through this mechanism, the victim feels supported by the multiple city departments, and the message to the abuser is clear: the victim is no longer alone.

The county's efforts have paid off. From 1994 to 1997, domestic violence homicides dropped 85 percent, from 34 to 5 (by comparison, homicides dropped 35 percent overall). And in 1997 in the city of Tampa, not one woman died due to domestic violence (there was one male fatality). Overall, there was a 29 percent decline in serious crime between 1992 and 1997.

Sgt. William Rousseau
Tampa Police Department
411 North Franklin Street
Tampa, FL 33602
(813) 276-3568

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