Catalyzing Policing Reform with Data

Report by Ashlin Oglesby-Neal, Alena Stern, Kathryn L.S. Pettit
May 2020

Urban Institute   (NNIP Coordinator)
Neighborhood Data for Social Change   (Los Angeles)

Nationwide protests in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd have underscored the urgency for rethinking policing in the nation, and many of the changes will need to happen at the local level. Understanding patterns of policing through analysis of open data can help to inform these community conversations.

Community-police relationships are one factor that influences how communities engage with the police. We created a typology based on multiple aspects of policing that reveals a relationship between resident-initiated and police-initiated activity, and explores how that relationship varies across neighborhoods. We found that resident calls for service and police stops and arrests generally increase together, and neighborhoods with high activity also tend to have wider racial disparities in stops and arrests, and more economic hardship. Neighborhoods with high amounts of activity also generally have a greater proportion of violent crime and serious calls for service. In addition to shedding light on policing in Los Angeles, this neighborhood-policing typology serves as an example of how open data can be a powerful tool for local movements for a more equitable criminal justice system in other cities. Read more in the full report and blog.

Explore the Data and Methods

To visualize the levels of resident and police-initiated activity and explore patterns across Los Angeles neighborhoods, see the interactive tool that accompanies this report.

The open data come from the Los Angeles Open Data Portal, the American Community Survey, and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. A companion Technical Appendix describes the data sources and methods, and the code for processing and analyzing the data is on GitHub.

About the Project

The analysis was conducted in collaboration with the Microsoft Criminal Justice Reform team, the Microsoft Data Science and Analytics team, and the University of Southern California’s Sol Price Center for Social Innovation.

This neighborhood-policing typology is part of a larger criminal justice project of the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (NNIP), which is a learning network coordinated by the Urban Institute that connects independent partner organizations in 30 cities. NNIP’s mission is to ensure all communities can access data and have the skills to use information to advance equity and well-being across neighborhoods. A previous brief highlights how local organizations across the US are using data to explore criminal justice issues in their communities.