In Cincinnati, data-driven crimefighting has revived communities. Could the strategy work in NM?
September 16, 2018 10:23 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Nobody knew peanut butter and jelly went together until a brave person tried it. Lunches, as it turned out, were never the same.
Likewise, in Cincinnati, Ohio, a new partnership in the community is already creating ripple effects in reducing crime.
10 years ago, the Cincinnati Police Department found itself trying to take down a large violent gang wreaking havoc in the city and ruining neighborhoods.
"We realized there would be tremendous amounts of evidence and we needed to narrow and focus down," said Daniel Gerard, who was a police commander at the time.
Gerard also realized his department couldn't handle the thousands of pieces of evidence his team had collected. Worst yet, he didn't have a way to quickly analyze the evidence to build cases against dozens of violent gang members.
And he was forced to ask for help. So he took a huge case filled with evidence to the University of Cincinnati, where he met a graduate student who had recently moved from Turkey—Murat Ozer.
"I noticed if you work with the data and analyze the data and try to do something with people, it changes peoples' lives," Murat said.
In one day, Murat, an analytical database wiz, created a way for Gerard and his team to find patters in their evidence and learn about the inner networks of the gang.
Weeks later, Cincinnati Police took that gang out, arresting more than 70 people and returning a community under siege back to its residents.
"Having the academic support convinced me as a police commander that I would never undertake a major criminal investigation – and I didn't for the rest of my career – without academic support," Gerard said.
The peanut butter had found its jelly, so to speak.
Over time, that collaboration strengthened, and so did smart policing. Every officer in Cincinnati and the surrounding jurisdictions now enter all data into one shared database about who they stopped, what they found and who the suspect was with.
The software designed at the university collects it all and creates equations that allow police officers to see criminal networks, predict crime and see crime as it's happening in real time.
"It brings another dimension into what we're doing when you have that academic background (and) academic research that can help facilitate what we are doing," said CPD Assistant Chief Mike John. "They really bring ideas that we wouldn't have thought about before because they think about things differently, at a different analytical level."
Gerard became so dedicated to crime analytics that he retired from the department and now works alongside Murat, now known as Dr. Ozer.
"It is a totally different style of policing than what we are used to," Gerard said. "It used to be you get dispatched a call for service, you handle the problem. Now we can anticipate where the calls for service will be, who will be involved and what they are going to entail. We can sometimes prevent those ahead of time."
KOB was invited to a meeting at CPD where each unit leader shares data they've learned. There, the department's leaders use the analytics to strategize their approach to find suspects and root out crime.
It's working. Published crime stats show crime is down in the city and surrounding neighborhoods, along with gang activity. Gerard said homicides involving gang members have dropped by nearly 42 percent, and gang member-involved shootings have fallen by 23 percent.
All because officers embraced data-focused crime solving.
"You want to make the best use of your resources, and for us the best resources are our officers," John said. "We want them to be as efficient and effective as they possibly can. You really cannot do that without looking at numbers and patterns and sequences."
Ozer and Gerard have spent time in New Mexico recently, working with law enforcement leaders on how to build a statewide network much like Cincinnati has to combat one of our most prevalent issues. Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez has entered into a similar partnership with New Mexico Tech after the Legislature added funding for his office to build a crime strategies unit.
But at this point, there's nothing tangible in the works for a statewide system similar to Ohio.
Meanwhile, over 1,200 miles away, neighborhoods in Cincinnati are turning the corner. The north side of the city used to be one of its most dangerous areas, but after years of data-driven crimefighting, things have changed. The result: New businesses moving in, and more economic development.
"I dedicated my life and time for this," Murat said, "and if we can do something for communities, it makes me very happy."
Updated: September 16, 2018 10:23 PM
Created: September 16, 2018 09:32 PM
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