ShotSpotter Blog

Police Patrol Software: 5 Essential Features That Minimize Bias & Maximize Crime Deterrence

High-visibility police patrols are a proven crime deterrent. But only if those patrols direct officers to precise locations that are crime and time specific. To see a real, positive impact on communities, agencies need patrol strategy software.

Police departments are adopting advanced technology to increase efficiency and effectiveness of patrol operations. Smaller budgets, recruitment challenges and highly engaged communities have heightened the priority of adopting police patrol software to support sophisticated and meaningful patrol strategies.

The Need for Sophisticated Patrol Strategy Solutions

Police departments have long faced the challenge of deciding where and when to send limited patrol resources to maximize efficiency while preventing crime.

traditional hot spot analysis

Oftentimes, traditional patrol strategies that are primarily focused on aggregating historical crime events lead to over-saturating or over-policing areas of persistent crime while simultaneously creating gaps of police services across the jurisdiction. Traditional methods for creating patrol plans that are not data-driven do not provide insight into where officers can spend their limited unencumbered time that will maximize presence and prevent crime while engaging the community with care.

Without technology that uses data to automate patrol plans, patrol deployment strategies oftentimes result in a “day-in, day-out” routine of conducting patrols in the same areas with no real effect on driving down crime. Similarly, relying on traditional hot spot analysis or “gut-based” patrols that are based on training and experience may leave the community feeling over-policed and discriminated against.

So, the question is, how can agencies create a bigger and better impact with fewer resources and more outside pressure? The answer is by deploying sophisticated police patrol software that drives more meaningful and impactful patrol strategies.

What is Police Patrol Software?

Police patrol software—also known as patrol management—uses well-trained artificial intelligence (AI) to direct officers to locations with the highest areas of risk that are both crime and time specific. This type of technology maximizes limited and strained resources while preventing crime before it occurs.

The most effective police patrol software takes this concept a step further by:

  • Recommending dosage and reporting on officer time spent in each area of the jurisdiction.
  • Focusing on community engagement and relationship building by recommending pre-approved, light touch, non-enforcement tactics.
  • Providing visibility into actions completed and tactics applied by patrol officers during their self-initiated time.

When police departments embrace this type of technology, they can more effectively allocate resources, mitigate potential bias, and focus on healthy interactions with the community, solving issues and promoting trust.

However, not all solutions are equipped to provide these benefits. Only police patrol software that prioritizes the five components outlined below create real impact.

Police Patrol Strategy Software: 5 Essential Features

5 police patrol software features

Solutions that focus on aggregating historical crime can oftentimes create negative feedback loops that negatively affect small portions of each jurisdiction. Solutions of this type have no limits on patrol time or frequency and lack tracking for accountability and impact analysis.

Here’s how better police patrol software—one that uses data to reduce crime and foster community engagement through appropriate and equitable presence—helps mitigate such challenges:

#1. Better Crime Event Data

Use crime event data that is least susceptible to bias.

Solely relying on call for service, crime and offender data to direct limited resources often unintentionally creates enforcement bias. This means that officers go to areas of traditionally high crime to document more crime, which, in turn, can create saturation of one area. This is also known as over-policing.

Policing in this manner also creates gaps in police services elsewhere, in which no one sees patrols in their area of residence or work.

Remaining thoughtful about police operations and weighing citizen- versus officer-initiated calls for service related to crime is key.

To create real impact, it’s important to focus on documented crime events that are least susceptible to bias and not driven by police presence. When an officer has self-initiated or responded to a citizen-initiated crime event that requires documenting the offense in a report, this data is deemed more accurate than a simple 911 call.

Expanding on this, law enforcement professionals acknowledge that citizen-initiated calls for service are oftentimes unreliable and inherently bias. We know that some citizens feel comfortable calling 911 for any threat or concern, while others simply will not initiate a call for service no matter how dire the circumstances.

In short, the best police patrol software relies on data from events that officers respond to, validate, document and take appropriate measures on.

Most quality of life or nuisance crimes are typically documented due to focused police operations and should always be excluded from directed patrols.

Police patrol software that excludes these types of crimes—including vandalism, drug use and traffic stops—will eliminate the negative feedback loop of enforcement bias and over-policing. Solutions of this kind should not be deployed as an enforcement tool but rather as a crime reduction and community engagement tool.

#2. Better Datasets

Use other sources of data, excluding people data.

There is a level of inherent bias in crime data alone. That’s why some patrol strategy software solutions supplement local crime data with other relevant data from independent, open sources.

By incorporating data from non-biased, non-crime sources, new insights may arise in the risk forecasts that inform where patrols should go. These wouldn’t – and likely couldn’t – have been uncovered using crime data alone.

For example, holidays, lunar illumination, bars, parks, and vacant buildings have an impact on crime risks.

Other data sources may include:

  • Gunfire Data
  • Geographic Data
  • Temporal Data
  • Natural Terrain Data
  • American Community Survey (ACS) Data
  • Homeland Infrastructure Foundation-Level Data
  • OpenStreetMap Data
  • Weather

#3. Better Controls

Maximize the reduction of harm.

With hot spot analysis or a lack of technology-supported patrols, officers end up patrolling the same locations over and over again with no positive impact.

To minimize the chance of over-policing, agencies need a way to measure the amount of time an officer spends in a patrol area.

One feature that helps you do this is intelligent patrol metering.

With this feature, each patrol area has a visible 15-minute timer and patrol meter to keep track of time and the number of visits to an area. This provides visual guidance on how much time should be spent in an area before moving to a new one. It also provides data on which patrol areas have already been visited and whether the area has received the prescribed amount of visits required to deter crime.

These control features significantly reduce the occurrences of over-policing and potential harm to the community.

#4. Better Reporting

Prioritize oversight and accountability.

 Better reporting allows for more visibility, oversight and accountability. To enhance these items, your police patrol software should log patrol activities including time, place and tactics used.

This will help you generate reports to see what areas officers visited during a shift, what tactics were employed and how much time was spent in each area. This provides insights into officer activities (that wouldn’t have been available with gut-based patrol or hot spot policing) and can feed future assignments and strategies.

#5. Better Transparency

Be proactively transparent about technology and artificial intelligence (AI).

AI-based solutions across all industries are no longer a novelty, having significantly matured in recent years. However, this doesn’t mean you can implement just any solution–especially in law enforcement. Public safety is at stake, and more and more citizens are taking an increased interest in how police technology and practices will impact them.

Transparency is imperative for the responsible use of technology within civic processes.

The system you deploy must be transparent about how it works and what data it uses. You’ll want to work with a software provider that actively seeks third-party independent audits or assessments.

Conclusion

The ultimate goal of a patrol strategy should be to increase positive engagement between your agency and the community it serves while reducing crime.

By providing officers with a framework of suggested non-enforcement tactics and limiting the amount of time they spend in each area, your agency can interact with the community in a positive manner. Today, police departments have all types of technology at their fingertips—and police patrol software should be one of them.

ShotSpotter Connect is a community-first patrol management solution that uses AI to direct officers to high-risk locations to prevent crime before it occurs. Watch the 2-minute video to see how it works.

About the Author: Wendy Ethridge is a former law enforcement professional with over 15 years of experience. She served as a Crime and Intelligence Analyst at the Colorado Springs Police Department and oversaw the crime analysis unit and developed and facilitated the CompStat process for the Denver Police Department. Currently, she serves as the Director of Analytic Solutions at ShotSpotter, focusing on developing the community-first patrol management solution to help agencies maximize crime deterrence opportunities.


June 07, 2021
By: Wendy Ethridge