Monday, January 4, 2010

Data Driven Criminal Justice

In this article from Governing, the near future of policing through the greater use of data is noted.

Data-driven policy is also vitally needed for the criminal justice end point—criminal rehabilitation programs—which, still too often, are funded and sustained with little evidence of success.

An excerpt.

“Just weeks ago, career criminal Maurice Clemmons walked into a Lakewood, Washington, coffee shop and gunned down four police officers. Although this particular crime could never have been anticipated, given his history it was a virtual certainty that Clemmons would commit more mayhem. Why was Clemmons out on the street?

“In the weeks that followed, recriminations among various agencies in different states shined a very bright light on how this dangerous, serial offender had moved freely about the country, was caught and released repeatedly. The data was all out there, but Clemmons was out on bail because nobody had connected the dots.

“The role of technology and data in crime fighting becomes more critical each year. When I was elected prosecutor in Indianapolis in 1979, I inherited an office dysfunctional in many ways but highly advanced in one — the use of then-cutting edge information tools that allowed deputies to target career criminals and make use of every detail available about their previous conduct. The tools were a bit crude and the data a bit simplistic, but it helped focus time and attention where it was needed most.

“For much of the next eight years we tried every system that seemed reasonably likely to increase effective targeting of resources, and we made notable strides. We launched the first large-city, fully integrated criminal justice system in the country, made rudimentary efforts at digital fingerprints and mugs shots, and more. The limitations on these efforts now seem glaring — we were doing our best to use information, but were limiting ourselves to reacting after the fact, rather than using data to peer into the future.

“Data-driven criminal justice advanced significantly during the 1990s. Led by Commissioner William Bratton and Mayor Rudy Giuliani, New York City became the model for data-driven policing through its Compstat system. Compstat brought a sea change in police management, driving up performance and driving down crime rates in a way unimaginable a decade earlier.

“The Lakeview tragedy, however, illustrates that law enforcement must take the next step in digital crime fighting. To dramatically increase crime fighting efficacy, we must combine Compstat-like tools with more predictive measures. We must integrate data, not only between all facets of criminal justice (law enforcement, prosecution, courts, and corrections) but between jurisdictions. Such advancement will act as a force multiplier.”