Predictive policing entails using information garnered through information systems to
predict where high crime areas are and who may be responsible for committing specific types of
crime in certain areas. Different types of IT systems have been used over the years to detect
trends in crime and reduce the risks of burglaries by using specific routes during patrols instead
of randomly cruising the streets hoping to stumble on a crime in progress.
COMPSTAT: Comparing & Contrasting Application of IT Systems
When comparing the use of IT systems to enhance performance to information gained
from random patrols, it is well to remember that each type of surveillance offers benefits. Both
provide information and clues as to who may be responsible for crimes and trends in burglaries
and break ins. Police officers on patrol collect information on a first hand basis, while those who
study, correlate and organize information gained through information systems can arrive at
The main contrasts between the two types of data collection have to do with speed and
efficiency. Information gained through systems like COMPSTAT receive, correlate and organize
information at a much faster rate than information gained from officers on patrol. IT systems are
also more accurate than the speculations that are made by police officers who must track down
leads and investigate crime without the benefit of being able to compare their findings with other
officers’ information (Risling, 2012).
Using systems like COMPSTAT and GIS give police officers on patrol a virtual store
house of information they can use to compare their evidence to. Police officers who know where
high crime areas are as well as trends that have been established in the past can compare new
information they receive to previous accounts. This allows them to narrow search parameters
without having to drive for hours chasing leads (Healy, 2013).
How Does COMPSTAT Implement the Four Basic IS Functions
COMPSTAT uses the following four Information System functions to bring together
valid information and organize it in such a way that it can easily utilized either in the field or at
the station. Information Systems rely on the following four functions to correlate and store
information that is received through various methods.
COMPSTAT allows information to be received from a variety of sources including GPS
maps, electronic files, police transmissions and reports. All types of information can be put into
the system and recorded in an organized and easily searchable manner. Sources of information
include GPS, information system from other areas as well as data compiled from various police
reports. Electronic information systems can continually import and compile data from several
systems at once while integrating and formatting it so it is easy to access. Statistics and reports
are created as the information is entered into the system, allowing it to be used in real time when
As information is entered into the IT system, it is organized and correlated with files of a
similar nature. Processing information in this manner helps to define trends in various types of
crime as well as determine where “hotspots” or high crime areas can be found. Processing also
helps establish statistics that can be used when applying for public funding and hiring new
Once the processing phase is complete, information that has been correlated and
organized into usable statistics and reports can help officers on patrol. Statistics supported by
information from several different sectors can help officers target areas who are known to have a
higher incidence of crime. Reports can be created that allow departments to verify their need for
additional officers and man hours to adequately patrol areas known to be under patrolled.
The COMPSTAT information system accepts feedback to continually update and revise
statistics for high crime areas as well as those who report only a few crimes a year. Feedback is
often reported from officers on patrol who witness events and crimes that may not be reported
through normal channels. While IT systems can help point out areas officers need to patrol on a
regular basis, they do not negate the need for random patrols in other areas. The random patrols
are the ones who often turn up incidents where crimes occur but are never called in.
SWOT Analysis on Police Departments Who Want to Implement Predictive Policing
A SWOT analysis can help police departments who want to implement predictive
policing protocols determine how best to put the system into action. By exploring their strength,
weaknesses, opportunities and threats departments can use the new system to become more
efficient and make improvements in areas where they are needed. The SWOT formula provides
an approach that focuses on good and bad areas that exist in the department. By reviewing the
information offered by the analysis, the department can make improvements where they are
needed and addresses areas where threats can wreak havoc on a department.
Information systems can point out areas where departments are strongest. Strengths can
include accuracy in record keeping, good interrogation techniques and the ability to read
suspects and scenes to get a better feeling of what is going on in a case. Weaknesses can also be
addressed by looking at statistics that have been processed by the system. By studying the
information presented, departments can focus on their weak areas and find ways to improve
them. They can also target areas that could potentially become problems if changes aren’t made
Opportunities and threats are also addressed. Opportunities that allow police departments
to expand existing programs and focus on different techniques when it comes to training and
patrolling high crime areas. COMPSTAT provides information that can point to areas where
opportunities may arise as crime rates drop in certain areas. The information system can also
point to possible threats or areas in which officers may be put in positions where they are at a
distinct disadvantage. Threats can also be present within the station. Training scenarios, as well
as interrogation procedures can pose threats in terms of injuries to officers. A malfunction during
training or injuries sustained when taking an offender into custody are all threats police officers
must deal with on daily basis.
SWOT analysis and the information they provide can be included in the COMPSTAT
system and compared to data garnered from other sources. By correlating both sets of
information, a police department can not only improve the way they operate, they can adequately
prepare themselves for changes in the areas and precincts they patrol. By accentuating their
strengths and improving on their weaknesses, they can identify opportunities and use them to
their advantage. They can face threats in whatever form they appear, continually learning and
growing from the experience (Heaton, 2012).
Predictive policing not only enhances the way officers present themselves, it also helps
them maintain an active presence in the areas they patrol. Implementing IT systems like
COMPSTAT, gives them the tools they need to take control of situations both in and out of the
station. The collection and presentation of accurate data that can be made available at any given
time, helps officers utilize their time and tax-payer dollars more effectively.
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