I thought we might take today to give everyone an insider's look at how the Lakeland Police Department examines information from daily crime reports to identify emerging trends and determine where we will direct our resources. Here is the view from the inside about how we attack crime - a bit lengthy but interesting nonetheless.
Every Wednesday morning at 9:00 AM, senior managers from the Neighborhood Services and Investigative Services bureaus gather in a conference room to meet with our Crime Analysis Unit for what we refer to as TAC - Targeted Areas of Concentration. The analysts will have prepared numerous reports a day or two before that outline when, where, and how the crimes from the previous week occurred. Pin maps, similar to those produced by Chuck at LakelandLocal, provide geographic and spatial views of crime patterns.
As boring as trend charts, crime maps, and data tables can be, they serve as the foundation for the weekly review process (samples are at the bottom of this posting). The group then begins to pick apart the reports to determine what are trends and what are random acts. Here's an example...
A resident in a wealthy neighborhood reports a burglary with no forced entry and theft of a laptop computer. This neighborhood has very little crime, so a report such as this one quickly catches our attention. Reading the report from the patrol officer or public safety aide, coupled with preliminary investigative information from the detectives, suggests a guest at the house stole the computer rather than a burglar beginning to work the neighborhood. Neither scenario is good for the victim, but we decide that the crime is not indicative of a developing trend so we move on.
Similar reviews occur for other crimes. A reported stolen car from a residence is determined to be a jealous ex-boyfriend who still had a key, or a residential burglary and theft of jewelry is actually a roommate getting revenge for an earlier dispute over drug money. A purse is stolen from a car with no signs of forced entry because the purse was left on the front seat with the window down or the door unlocked. These crimes will be investigated based on whatever suspect information we have, but there is not much more the police can do at this point to prevent the crimes from occurring.
However, a series of car burglaries to F-250 series trucks in the north Lakeland shopping area are linked to suspects from Hillsborough County. Detectives are working to solve the crimes in conjunction with investigators from HCSO and Plant City PD. Patrol officers are given information about possible suspect vehicles to be looking for while on patrol. A series of business burglaries on the south side is possibly being committed by suspects living in the woods nearby. Patrol officers are directed to conduct foot patrols at these camps to gather more information and possibly locate the stolen property.
We take the analysts' information very seriously, looking at trends over the past 7 days, 30 days, and year to date, and then compare them to last year's numbers. Where are we seeing significant changes in crime? Who are our known burglars just released from the county jail or state prison after serving time? What are their stipulations for probation, if any? Is the Polk County Sheriff's Office, with their PROCAP crime trend reports, experiencing similar events? This type of dialog goes on for anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.
The division commanders then decide on the most serious targets or trends and begin to formulate strategies to attack the problem. Are surveillance teams needed in the area? Can we increase bike patrols? Are detectives ready to get arrest warrants for suspects? Will a neighborhood benefit from specific crime prevention programs? And so the week unfolds as we implement the plans and begin to attack the emerging crime trends.
The cycle repeats itself the next Wednesday. The TAC meeting starts with a review of the previous week's targets. Were we able to make any arrests? Have we located new suspects? Has the problem been resolved? What are the new emerging crime trends for this week? All of this in hopes of having an impact on crime and improving the quality of life in Lakeland.
So there is your insider's glimpse at what we refer to as the TAC process. We would like to know if you have any additional questions about TAC and how we work to understand emerging crime trends in Lakeland - send us a comment or two with your questions.
-Asst Chief Bill LePere