Sharing data to reduce crime
Established by Worcestershire County Council, the Worcestershire Community Safety Partnerships (CSPs) bring together representatives from local councils, the police, fire service, probation service, chamber of commerce and voluntary organisations. The groups use Esri’s ArcGIS platform to share information, gain new insight into crime and plan local crime reduction initiatives.
Worcestershire County Council serves more than half a million people in approximately 240,000 households. It delivers a wide range of services, in conjunction with six district councils, and is one of the highest performing councils in the country.
ArcGIS draws together information from multiple organisations to highlight problem local areas and reveal concerning trends in crime and anti-social behaviour
Partners can easily interpret the data displayed in ArcGIS, which helps them to implement effective measures to protect local people and properties
The Bromsgrove CSP used ArcGIS to identify that criminal damage occurred in main streets, at specific times, and took subsequent steps to successfully address the problem
The Crime and Disorder act of 1998 requires councils to establish formal partnerships with other local agencies and organisations to implement local crime reduction initiatives. Worcestershire has four Community Safety Partnerships (CSPs), involving representatives from the police, fire service, probation service, chamber of commerce, district and county councils, and voluntary organisations, such as Neighbourhood Watch.
CSPs are required to produce Crime and Disorder Audits every two to three years. “We found it very challenging”, explains David Onions, Research Manager, Worcestershire County Council. “The newly formed CSPs didn’t have the complete range of analytical skills or the capacity to pull together reports of the depth and quality they may otherwise have desired.” Consequently, the CSP sought support from the Research & Intelligence (R&I) Unit at Worcestershire County Council to help produce audits more effectively, and with more detailed analysis and visual representations.
“ The newly formed CSPs didn’t have the complete range of analytical skills or the capacity to pull together reports of the depth and quality they may otherwise have desired ”
David Onions – Research Manager, Worcestershire County Council
Worcestershire had recently decided to migrate to Esri’s ArcGIS across the entire council, so it used it to support CSPs too. Onions recalls: “It made it possible for us to make data more accessible to our partners. The selection of ArcGIS also gave us a range of new tools – such as the ability to create web-based maps – that we foresaw would be very advantageous for our work with external organisations.”
Geographical Information Systems (GIS) adds value in other ways. Emily Humphreys, Partnership Data Analyst working for Bromsgrove CSP, explains: “At each monthly CSP Tasking Meeting, a different issue is selected, which we then examine in depth. GIS plays a key role in these meetings, as it draws together data from multiple sources to highlight problem areas.” CrimeAnalyst is used to map the exact location of crimes, analyse the geographic nature of related incidents, understand the types of crime, and identify hotspots, revealing complex trends in place, time and movement across enforcement areas.
The ability to define and analyse bespoke areas is especially useful, e.g. to study crime and anti-social behaviour in a housing estate that does not fall within existing boundaries, such as wards or districts.
As well as highlighting problem areas, GIS helps CSPs monitor their performance and assess the impact of initiatives by comparing incidents before and after changes in tactics and facilities.
“ ArcGIS provides Worcestershire’s CSPs with an invaluable visual aid. Different partners may have limited experience of interpreting data. Through the use of ArcGIS, partners are much more likely to interpret the data correctly and take it on board ”
David Onions – Research Manager, Worcestershire County Council
Over the last four years, recorded crime in Worcestershire has reduced by around 30%. Furthermore, the rate of fall has been four to five times faster than in most other areas. Although many factors are involved, Worcestershire County Council is convinced that the success of its CSPs has been a major factor. This view is supported by The Jill Dando Institute, which recognised the work of Worcestershire CSPs as National Best Practice.
“The success and failure of a CSP hinges on how well the different partners accept the data and work together to act upon it”, Onions explains. “ArcGIS provides Worcestershire’s CSPs with an invaluable visual aid. Different partners may have limited experience of interpreting data. Through the use of ArcGIS, partners are much more likely to interpret the data correctly and take it on board.”
Bromsgrove CSP demonstrated that criminal damage incidents followed the main streets away from the town centre after pubs and clubs closed. After reviewing and discussing the map-based evidence, new taxi ranks were sited closer to the town centre. This helped disperse people from the town centre more quickly, reducing incidents of criminal damage immediately after closing time.
An increase in numbers of young people gathering in parks on Friday nights was also noted. Bromsgrove CSP combined multiple datasets to demonstrate that this was affecting many council departments and local partners: noise complaints, vandalism, and health risks for other park users (broken glass), for example. To address this, neighbourhood wardens were engaged to disperse large groups, and new facilities for young people were opened.
As the CSPs have gained confidence and expertise in GIS, they have begun to use data from more agencies and organisations. This not only increases the possibilities for identifying trends, but “It helps to strengthen the involvement and the commitment of the different partners”, says Onions. “When they see their own data in a map format, used in conjunction with that of the police and council, for example, they can see how they fit into the partnership and what value they add.”
“ Because GIS makes it easy for everyone to see what is happening… it enables us to focus on specific issues and make decisions about what we can do, as a partnership, to ease the situation ”
Emily Humphreys – Partnership Data Analyst
The council wants to take full advantage of ArcGIS to make data and reports available to partners in a range of formats most appropriate to each. “As the economic conditions deteriorate, it is likely that incidents of crime may increase”, observes Onions. “Our challenge now is to continue to monitor and manage this situation through the CSPs and implement initiatives with our partners that will enable us to maintain our low crime rate.”
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