Memphis police leverage analytics to fight crime

In 2005, the Memphis Police Department (MPD) piloted a program to combat serious and violent street crime using statistical data and a defined methodology. By compiling incident reports and other law enforcement data for the last several years, officials say their technology enables them to forecast criminal “hot spots” more accurately and respond more effectively to the shifting criminal landscape.

The MPD stood up Operation Blue CRUSH (which stands for Crime Reduction Utilizing Statistical History) in conjunction with the University of Memphis’ Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, using predictive analytics by IBM. Since 2006 MPD has seen a 31 percent reduction in serious crime, including a 15.4 drop in violent crime around the city. Much of this drop has been credited to Blue CRUSH and its statistics, or analytics-based approach to law enforcement.

According to department officials, IBM software compiles volumes of crime records, including data from patrols in the field, in mere seconds. With the use of such tools, MPD “now has the invaluable insight all of our staff can use — from the commanders to the patrolling officers — to specifically focus investigative and patrol resources with the goal of preventing crime and making our neighborhoods safer,” Colonel James Harvey, Commander at MPD’s Ridgeway Station, said in a statement.

Over the last year, IBM has announced a healthy portfolio of government clients using business intelligence and analytics products – a business line which has been buoyed by 18 acquisitions and $11 billion in the last four years.

Other police departments using IBM’s SPSS predictive analytics include Richmond PD, but the Florida State Department of Juvenile Justice and the police department in Edmonton, Canada have installed similar solutions.

In Memphis, IBM software being used by Blue CRUSH will also incorporate information and data gathered by the police department’s $3 million Real Time Crime Center (RTCC). The RTCC is designed to be a resource-sharing initiative that will facilitate cooperation between city, state, county and federal law enforcement within a 75-mile radius of the city to proactively combat crime.

By using predictive analytics, the project has also garnered an award for improving operations, enabling MPD to reduce crime without a proportional increase in staff while expanding the department’s reach into the community.

According to the report, published by Nucleus Research, the project’s average annual total cost of ownership is $395,249. Meanwhile, the average annual benefit of the system (both direct and indirect) is over $7 million. The report calculated the indirect benefits by estimating the amount of additional officers that would have been needed to reduce crime by 31 percent (the drop since 2006 and the program start).

“IBM’s comprehensive set of capabilities for data access, data preparation, analysis and reporting allow us to get the most value from our analytical resources, empowering every officer on the force to take a proactive role in the city’s ongoing commitment to crime prevention and public safety,” Colonel Harvey added.