I am a confirmed cat-lover with three felines currently living in our house. One of the ways I play with them is to take a laser pointer and aim the beam of light on the floor. Watching them eagerly chase after the laser and try to catch the point of light with their paws gives them some exercise after lounging around the house all day (and admittedly is somewhat entertaining to me).
Their futile attempts to capture the disappearing light is also a good analogy to the challenges of chasing crime trends in law enforcement. The cats seemingly always try to catch the light where they last saw it rather than go to where the light will be next. (I know what you're thinking - how is a cat supposed to predict where I will aim the light next, so bear with me here.)
The same concept really applies to crime fighting - we often go to the spot of the most recent crime rather than head to where the next crime is most likely to occur. That is true because predicting crime is a real challenge, but it is an evolving aspect of our profession - something called predictive policing. Chief Casady with the Lincoln (NE) Police Department has written extensively on this subject in his blog.
We continue to look at crime trends on a daily basis, using available technology to identify whatever patterns might exist so as to offer some prediction of where crime may occur next. I offer two recent success stories.
The Winn-Dixie store on Ariana Street was burglarized during the first part of November. We responded to the late night alarm call to investigate further. Our patrol officers and surveillance officers knew of a pattern to these crimes and predicted other Winn Dixie stores were likely to get hit as well that night. Surveillance was established at the store on Lakeland Highlands Road where officers waited in the shadows. The officers patiently watched as the suspects arrived and broke into the store a short time later. Arrests were made at the scene.
Last night our surveillance officers were in a neighborhood where we have been experiencing some home and vehicle burglaries off the North Crystal Lake area. A subject was spotted roaming the area around 1:15 AM this morning, so our officers began covert surveillance. We eventually watched the subject, a juvenile, commit a burglary to an unlocked truck. He was arrested at the scene, and a search following the arrest revealed he was armed with a three-foot long sword, so he was charged with armed burglary.
Now I am not suggesting we are able at this point to accurately predict when and where crime is going to occur, but it is worth mentioning how our use of technology is giving us a real-time ability to analyze crime trends and deploy resources where we think crime is likely to occur.
And as a reminder, anyone can create a crime map of significant events in our community or your neighborhood by going to our online crime mapping data at SpotCrime.com. You can also sign up to receive e-mail crime alerts for what is happening in your neighborhood.
My cats do get tired of chasing but never catching the laser after a while, and our officers get tired of chasing crime as well. Our ability to be where crime is likely to occur and then catch them in the act is very rewarding to our folks. Wonder where the next crime is about to happen?
- Asst Chief Bill LePere