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CALEA Update Magazine | Issue 108

Accountability, Technology, and Crime Reduction

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The Anne Arundel County, Maryland  Police Department has been CALEA® accredited since July 1994, and it continually strives to improve upon its delivery of professional and efficient law enforcement services.

At its April 2011 successful on-site assessment for reaccreditation, for which the CALEA Meritorious Award was given, the CALEA assessors identified the organizational processes being implemented and the technology being used by the Anne Arundel County Police Department (AACPD) to reduce crime as a unique “comprehensive crime analysis information sharing tool.” This article is offered to extend the ‘information sharing’ to other CALEA accredited agencies.

Agency Description
AACPD is centrally located between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland, serving a diverse population of over 500,000. The geographic political boundaries of the county encompass 416 square miles. The authorized strength of personnel is 653 sworn officers with 239 civilian professional staff members. The Patrol Services Bureau is organized into four police districts, each with its own commander. Each district has 109 patrol officers assigned to one of four platoons; a detective unit responsible for investigating major property crimes and specific types of violent crimes; and a small flexible squad of officers who can be deployed to address a wide variety of crime, traffic, and quality of life issues. The department’s crime analysis function and the P.R.O.T.E.C.T. process also resides in the Patrol Bureau.  Major criminal investigations, such as homicides, commercial robberies, sex crimes, child abuse; major financial crimes; and major narcotics investigations, are handled by centralized investigative units, as is the department’s crime analysis function. In 2009 there were 18,714 Part 1 Crimes reported throughout Anne Arundel County; in 2010, there were 17,447[1].

Because of the size of the agency and the large geographic areas covered, AACPD’s four police districts have historically operated fairly independent from each other. Patrol officers and detectives assigned to one of the four districts investigated cases that occurred in their respective district, but there was no formal process to share information about cases, suspects, arrests made, etc. Informal communication occurred between individual officers, detectives, supervisors and commanders; but the informal systems lacked a structure and the information flow was not consistent. District commanders and their patrol supervisors often lacked the information needed to effectively deploy resources to areas having problems, other than their own intuition and personal experience.

Making the Changes
At about the time Colonel Teare was looking at ways to improve the intelligence led organizational processes being used by the police department to reduce crime, the University of Maryland’s Institute for Governmental Service & Research (IGSR) partnered with the Maryland Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCP) to lead a grant funded initiative entitled “Implementing and Institutionalizing CompStat and Crime Analysis in Maryland.”[2]  The timing couldn’t have been better, and after a few meetings, the AACPD’s executives were impressed and agreed the philosophies and ideas being promoted by the researchers and practitionerswould help frame and guide the future changes. The police department’s executives and commanders received training from the University of Maryland and learned how the principles of CompStat and other organizational models could be applied to improve upon the successful problem solving and crime fighting techniques already in use by the department.

The department has long used the SARA Model[3] as the foundation for its approach to solving quality of life and crime problems. The pillars of the SARA Model (Scanning, Analysi, Response, and Assessment) fit right in with the four basic principles of the traditional CompStat model (accurate and timely intelligence; effective tactics; rapid deployment; and relentless follow-up and assessment).[4]  Because the CompStat model was to be only one part of what was to be implemented, the acronym, “P.R.O.T.E.C.T.”  (Police Resources Organized To Eliminate Crime Trends) was adopted by the AACPD to describe the overall organizational crime reduction process that was going to be used to fulfill the goal of reducing crime.

A key feature of the P.R.O.T.E.C.T. process is to look at different types of problems based on their complexity, and to identify who is to be held accountable for addressing those problems. For example, first line supervisors (sergeants) are held accountable for the response of patrol officers and detectives to immediate incidents, such as calls for service and crimes in progress or that have just occurred. One rank above the first line supervisor (lieutenant) is held accountable for addressing short-term problems such as repeat incident locations[5] and crime patterns[6]. Accountability for addressing longer term problems that have occurred or developed over months or perhaps years is given to the next higher command level rank, typically a district commander.

Other aspects of the P.R.O.T.E.C.T. process involve a robust and focused crime analysis function; daily, weekly, monthly, and semi-annual meetings; and producing various products that are timely, acturate, and actionable. The foundations of the P.R.O.T.E.C.T. process implemented by the AACPD can be found in the U. S. Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing Services publication, “A Police Organizational Model for Crime Reduction: Institutionalizing Problem Solving, Analysis and Accountability.”[7] 

Taking into consideration what the AACPD’s commanders and executives already knew about fighting crime in their jurisdiction, and taking into consideration what was learned from the researchers and practitioners at the University of Maryland, the police department identified short-term problems as the type of problem on which the P.R.O.T.E.C.T. process could initially have the most impact. Since accountability for short-term problems occurs at the lieutenant rank, each patrol platoon lieutenant was assigned a geographic area within the district to which they were assigned. Even though these patrol platoon lieutenants would continue to have responsibility for the activities of patrol sergeants and officers working in the entire district while they are on duty, they would now also be responsible to coordinate the patrol response from all the other shifts to address short-term problems occurring in their smaller assigned area within the district. In short, the lieutenants “owned” their assigned geographical area 24/7.

This was a significant paradigm shift from the regular way of doing business, but provided for the accountability necessary to effectively implement the P.R.O.T.E.C.T. process. Instead of three or four patrol platoon lieutenants trying to resolve a crime issue within the same area, and likely utilizing three or four different approaches, there now was one lieutenant that all officers and the district commander could look to for information and responses occurring in a particular area.  

Good Use of Technology
Other than the typical challenges that come with any significant change, one of the biggest challenges was to identify a good system to use for disseminating information. Having the ability to share information between patrol officers, supervisors, commanders, and investigative units in a large organization that operates 24 hours a day from various geographic locations was a key component in making the P.R.O.T.E.C.T. process work. When the AACPD began the shift toward the P.R.O.T.E.C.T. process, email was used with limited success to share information. However, when an officer wanted to recall a particular piece of information from several weeks prior, they would have to data mine their own email; and since there might be a variety of officers working in a particular beat or sector over a several day period, the P.R.O.T.E.C.T. area commanders never knew to whom to send emails for the purposes of providing the information and direction needed to address short term problems.  

Good timing came into play yet again, for while the new approach to reducing crime was being implemented in the Patrol Services Bureau, a police commander in the Administrative Services Bureau was working on a county-wide project involving the replacement of the county’s 911 dispatching, mobile report writing, and records management software. This was a large project involving many people from several county agencies spread out over a large geographic area, not unlike the dispersion of police officers, detectives, supervisors and commanders in the daily operations of the police department. The individuals involved in that project were using a Microsoft® product called SharePoint Services 3.0.[8]  When the commander in the Administrative Services Bureau heard about what the Patrol Services Bureau was doing to reduce crime through the P.R.O.T.E.C.T. process, SharePoint was offered up as a possible solution to share information. After a quick demonstration by a member of the Anne Arundel County Government’s Office of Information Technology showing what SharePoint could do and how easily it could be customized; considering the fact that it was already available behind the county government’s firewall on the county’s intranet; and that it could be accessed from any police department computer, including mobile data computers in patrol cars, the decision was easily made to use this product to facilitate the information sharing aspects of the P.R.O.T.E.C.T. process.

The biggest benefit of the SharePoint software was that it created an electronic version of the police station roll call room; a “one stop shop” that everyone from recruits at the police academy to the chief of police could go to obtain and share crime related information. Documents that were posted on station bulletin boards, such as wanted and information sought posters; crime bulletins; crime maps; important officer safety information; and homeland security bulletins were now available electronically from any police department computer. The SharePoint software also included a feature to set up discussion threads/blogs. These discussion threads/blogs now provide an easy method for patrol platoon lieutenants, sergeants, detectives and officers from all shifts to document and share information about the crime and quality of life problems they are trying to solve.

Another feature of the SharePoint software is the ability to develop customized lists. Customized lists were designed for repeat incident locations, known repeat offenders, the daily commander’s report, and detective case assignment logs. The search feature of SharePoint allows a user to search the information and documents within SharePoint for a particular word or string of words. For example, a person’s name or a vehicle description could be searched by a detective in one police district and could assist in linking cases involving the same suspect or suspect vehicle in other districts.  Finally, an important feature of SharePoint from an operational security standpoint is the ability to set various permission levels to control who can upload and edit information, and who can view the information on the SharePoint web site.

The Results
Every police executive knows not to celebrate reductions in crime too enthusiastically because there are too many unknown and uncontrollable variables that can cause crime rates to go up and to go down. It must also be acknowledged that crime rates have gone down nationally over the past several years in spite of a down economy. However, the reduction in crime in Anne Arundel County has been consistent and significant since the implementation of the P.R.O.T.E.C.T. process. In addition, it is always difficult to account for crimes that were prevented. On more than one occasion as a result of the P.R.O.T.E.C.T. process, patrol platoon lieutenants have identified potential domestic violence victims as a result of monitoring “repeat incident locations.” In most of these cases police had previously been called several times to the same location to settle non-violent domestic arguments that did not trigger domestic violence reporting requirements. Even though the circumstances of these cases did not involve violence, domestic violence officers were now able to quickly identify these homes and intervene and offer their services to these families before an act of violence occurred.

Detectives working out of the four districts are working with crime analysts and linking more cases together and making it harder for the bad guys to stay out of jail. Patrol officers have a higher level of situational awareness through their in-car access to crime bulletins and discussion threads/blogs. In one case, while a patrol officer was handling a disorderly conduct call, he observed a pickup truck and trailer that looked similar to a surveillance photo he had seen several months prior on a crime bulletin regarding the theft of diesel fuel. A quick search of SharePoint using the words “diesel fuel” produced the crime bulletin and facilitated the positive identification of the suspect vehicle on the scene of the disorderly conduct call. This resulted in multiple case closures not only in Anne Arundel County, but other jurisdictions in the Central Maryland region.

Although these successes are evident, the Anne Arundel County Police Department continues to adapt and make improvements to the P.R.O.T.E.C.T. process. The long-term goal is to institutionalize the process so that it becomes second nature and part of the police department’s culture. The key is to remain flexible, but focused on the ultimate goal of reducing crime.

[1] Anne Arundel County Police Department. 2011. Anne Arundel County Police Department 2010 Annual Report.
[2] University of Maryland. Implementing and Institutionalizing CompStat in Maryland. Retrieved November 30, 2011, from http://www.compstat.umd.edu/.
[3] Center for Problem-Oriented Policing | About CPOP. (n.d.). Center for Problem-Oriented Policing | Home. Retrieved November 30, 2011, from http://www.popcenter.org/about/?p=sara.
[4] McDonald, Phyllis P. "Implementing CompStat: Critical Points to Consider." Jan. 2004. Police Chief Magazine. International Association of Chiefs of Police.
[5] “Repeat Incident Locations” are places where there are a high number of police calls within a relatively short period of time. In Anne Arundel County a location with four (4) or more calls within a twenty-eight (28) day period would be on the “Repeat Incident Location List”.
[6] “Crime Patterns” are identified through the crime analysis function. Crime patterns are two (2) or more incidents that could be related by victim, offender, location or property that occur over days, weeks, or months (For example, a single neighborhood that had numerous vehicles broken into during the overnight hours would be a spree as opposed to a pattern).
[7] Boba, R, and R. Santos. 2011. A Police Organizational Model for Crime Reduction: Institutionalizing Problem Solving, Analysis and Accountability. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.
[8] Microsoft® Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 is a “versatile technology that organizations and business units of all sizes can use to increase the efficiency of business processes and improve team productivity; with tools for collaboration that help people stay connected across organizational and geographic boundaries.” Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 Overview. Retrieved November 30, 2011, from http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/windowsserver/sharepoint/bb684453.

About the Author:
Lieutenant Herbert H. Hasenpusch has 22 years of law enforcement experience and has been with the Anne Arundel County, MD Police Department since 1995. He is currently assigned to the Patrol Services Bureau as the Executive Officer of the police department’s Western District. Lieutenant Hasenpusch has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Arts from Salisbury University; and a Master of Science degree in Applied Management from the University of Maryland University College. Lieutenant Hasenpusch was involved in the implementation of the Anne Arundel County Police Department’s P.R.O.T.E.C.T. process and the design of the SharePoint tools used to support the P.R.O.T.E.C.T. Process.

Author
Lieutenant Herbert H. Hasenpusch
Anne Arundel County, Maryland Police Department
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