MAPS Projects: Automobiles and Traffic Safety

Smart Police Deployment: Evaluating the Use of Automated Vehicle Locator Technologies in Policing

Grantee: The Police Foundation
Amount: $470,843
Award Number: 2007-IJ-CX-K153

Description: Currently, police agencies have little ability to assess the effectiveness of their deployment strategies in relationship to their goals. The Automated Vehicle Locator (AVL), a global positioning device that can be placed in a vehicle for monitoring its location across real time/space, promises to be an invaluable tool to inform CompStat and other directed patrol strategies (e.g., hot spots policing) in police agencies by measuring police presence at all places and at all times.

Although geographic information systems (GIS) are in use in 63 percent of larger police agencies, researchers still know little about where the police actually are when not responding to calls for service. Do the police simply “chase crime” across a city, or does a concentrated police presence have long-term crime prevention benefits with little displacement of crime? Is there a “diffusion of crime control benefits” when police presence is high at certain locations?

Researchers will examine the reliability and utility of the use of AVL technology to quantify police presence. If the data are reliable, the researchers will next examine the impact of police presence on crime in specific geographic areas in Dallas and, more important, test whether AVL can be an effective tool for deploying officers. The Dallas Police Department has AVL technology in almost all of its patrol vehicles (n = 873) and has implemented a CompStat program that focuses on directing patrol to specific problem areas.

In phase 1 of the study, researchers will develop an innovative method for collecting and integrating AVL data with spatially enabled crime data, examine the reliability of AVL data by determining anomalous gaps in data when compared to police calls for service and crime, and then look at the joint trends observed between police presence and crime in police reporting areas.

In phase 2, researchers will conduct a randomized experiment to assess whether AVL technology can increase the crime control effectiveness and efficiency of police patrol. In the treatment group, researchers will use data generated from phase 1 to inform commanders about the locations of officers and work with those commanders to develop and adopt new deployment strategies. The control group will maintain the same level of police presence that they had previously received. The effectiveness of these strategies will be assessed by examining official crime data and comparing crime levels in the experimental and control sites.

The results of the study will provide police agencies with the capacity for using AVL technology to assess and adapt deployment patterns. This approach would advance information-led policing nationwide by providing a technology-based strategy for crime prevention and reduction.

Date Created: July 21, 2009