Linking Police Reports to Community Data System Assists Programs to Reduce Crime

Author: Jake Cowan and Tom Kingsley
Date Posted: August 29, 2011

The Memphis Police Department is working with the Center for Community Criminology and Research (C3R) at the University of Memphis on reducing crime through mapping, statistical analysis, and problem oriented policing. The project is called Operation "Blue CRUSH" (Crime Reduction Using Statistical History). Through the project, C3R provides the Police Department with ongoing spatial and statistical analysis for problem-oriented policing. Traditional policing emphasizes response time to calls for service, incident reporting, and following leads. Problem-oriented policing uses statistical data and qualitative intelligence to target chronic perpetrators, designated “hotspots,” and priority issues such as a spate of robberies targeting Hispanics or the ongoing disruption of neighborhood-based drug markets.

C3R downloads police incident reports on a daily basis into the Crime Research Information System Program (CRISP). This program is powered by the Shared Urban Data System (SUDS), a university-based platform that enables information exchange and access among designated users and the public.

Using the CRISP program’s information on crime incident details, C3R staff were able to determine that a large number of Hispanic victims of crimes were being targeted at day laborer sites in the afternoon and evening hours, at a time when they were more likely to have cash on-hand. Some victims were targeted at the day-labor site, but following potential victims home typically resulted in multiple-victim robberies of everyone living in the household. Incident report addresses and day labor sites were mapped in relation to one another to pinpoint specific locations where undercover and patrol resources should be deployed for maximum effect. As a result, arrests increased in targeted hotspots and Hispanic victimization rates were reduced by over 50 percent during 2006.

After other pilot projects demonstrated similar impressive results, Blue CRUSH went citywide in September of 2006. As in many other cities with populations between 500,000 and 1,000,000, crime in Memphis had been increasing dramatically compared to 2005. For the last three months of 2006 with Blue CRUSH fully deployed city-wide (proactive resources deployed in highly specified places, at highly specified times, and/or with highly specified people) violent and property crimes were reduced by 20 percent compared to the first nine months. In contrast, in the unincorporated but adjacent urban neighborhoods in Shelby County where the Blue CRUSH strategy was not applied, crime continues to increase in 2007 compared to 2006 and 2005.

The Center for Community Building and Neighborhood Action at the University of Memphis is also a partner in this project. CBANA’s research on housing foreclosure and problem properties links with community development corporations and neighborhood associations, where residents help package information and establish priorities for special law enforcement efforts.

This story was initially published in Stories: Using Information in Community Building and Local Policy in June 2007.

This story was written by staff at the Urban Institute, drawn from documents and interviews with Phyllis Betts of CBANA. The Center for Community Building and Neighborhood Action at the University of Memphis was the Memphis partner in the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership, a learning network coordinated by the Urban Institute, at the time of the story. All partners ensure communities have access to data and the skills to use information to advance equity and well-being across neighborhoods.

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