More and more police departments around the country are setting up real time crime centers to provide officers at the scene of a crime with up-to-the-minute information. Such centers collect vast amounts of data related to crimes, such as mug shots, warrant information, and arrest records, and then rapidly provide it to investigators in the field.
Analysts can view every emergency call that comes in to 911 dispatch centers and make it available to officers and detectives in the field. Combining little bits of information, such as an address or a license plate number, the analysts are able to produce a wealth of information.
Knowing whether someone on the scene has a violent criminal history lets officers make informed decisions as they address incidents in progress. This helps keep both the officers and the public safer. Having so much information at their fingertips also enables criminal investigators to solve crimes faster.
New York City and Houston have pioneered real time crime centers. These cities have some of the country’s largest law enforcement agencies, with thousands of police officers on the beat. The Houston PD found that getting information about vehicles, addresses, or named persons to officers before or as they arrive at a crime scene leads to more rapid identification of threats and better informed decisions about how to handle related incidents.
One example from Houston involved the pursuit of a burglar for stealing an air conditioning unit. In three minutes, an analyst used a few databases to determine that the thief’s vehicle had made 47 stops at a local scrap metal yard within the past two months. That information enabled him to determine a possible suspect ID and relay that to officers.
Real time crime centers also help captains and chiefs track crime statistics and trends. This enables law enforcement administrators to manage their districts shift by shift instead of day to day, and can even allow them to examine statistics on an individual beat.