Travelling quickly to the scene of a crime is a regular activity for the police and thanks to the Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA), emergency services across the land can equip their control rooms with digital mapping products from Ordnance Survey. Using products like OS MasterMap Integrated Transport Network Layer helps them find the best route (not always the shortest) to a particular location.
Responding in this way to an emergency is a very important task and many other public services share this responsibility and make use of Ordnance Survey digital mapping products made available through the PSMA.
However, the next step in dealing with crime could be to move from a reactive approach, where speed of response matters to a pro-active position where ‘predictive policing‘ is used to match resources to expected requirements for a geographic area. This is new territory for public services and requires some quite different thinking.
Operation Swordfish, launched in the West Midlands, took exactly this approach. Crime statistics are used to help with the planning process – a large proportion of the burglaries in Birmingham in 2011 were a repeat or ‘near repeats’; victims of crime within the heightened risk radius of a recent crime.
To turn this concept into an efficiently delivered programme, a depth of expertise on analysing and predicting criminal activity is also needed. This is where the Jill Dando institute (JDi) add their expertise, making use of the latest detection techniques to support this experiment in running in Birmingham.
Utilising a proprietary programme, the JDi provide West Midlands Police with precise, focused patrol direction that is intended to maximise the deterrent impact on the ‘foraging’ offender whilst minimising the resource used.
The JDi is also equipped with OS MasterMap Address Layer 2 which links any property address to its location on the map. This gives the precision necessary to perform a geographic analysis of what’s happening and to highlight repeat/frequent areas for particular crimes, so police resources can be carefully targeted.
Using other Ordnance Survey mapping layers, activity can then be plotted against a detailed and accurate geographic background, so police resources can be targeted to the areas of greatest need. The ability to visualise and share this type of data is a valuable asset to any project when designing new public sector services.
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With thanks to Andy Brumwell, West Midlands Police Geo-spatial research and intelligence analyst for his contribution on this article.