IACPIt was a quiet morning in Philadelphia at the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) 2017 Conference. Just yesterday, police and protesters clashed outside the convention hall, where thousands of law enforcement professionals from across the globe will meet this week to discuss, among other things, how to improve how law enforcement officers work and engage with the community.

One such discussion — Fighting Violent Crime: What Does Data Have to Do With It? — took a look at the impact of data on policing, and how effective management of data is making cities safer.

Kerry Yerico, a former director of criminal intelligence and analysis with the Camden County Police Department, who now fills a similar role with the Mayor’s office in Baltimore, talked about how effective data management in policing can help departments better focus on long term planning and accountability measures, utilize benchmarking and best practices — and with effective data mapping — enable departments to better deploy officers to confront and/or curb criminal activity.

It’s also an effective tool in confronting emerging trends, like the opioid epidemic. With effective data tracking of drug sales, overdoses and more, agencies can easily develop heat maps to deploy resources more effectively.

But as Yerico described, deploying this data into the field effectively can make all the difference, as was the case in 2011 when police were searching for two suspects who committed a murder in downtown Baltimore. After gathering key data, including a CCTV image of two individuals fleeing the scene, officers were able to apprehend the suspects a short time later to the south of the city.

Such rapid response means that both sworn officers and civilian professionals must work side-by-side in departments to help better reveal trends in data and watch for “blind spots.”

Benjamin Horwitz, director of analytics with the New Orleans Police Department, explained that efficient data means officers can not only respond to situations in the field faster, but it also frees up more officer time for community engagement and proactive policing opportunities.

But, as Debra Piehl, senior crime analyst, New York City Police Department, explained, the success of data-driven policing has a dark side. As an “analysis driven agency,” the NYPD has seen the number of murders drop in the city 23 percent this year. This success also means that the “anxiety” to keep crime low can be quantified.

But, as she noted, a more intelligent approach to managing crimes, even petty theft, has helped drop crimes overall. As she explained, lesser crimes often help fund and contribute to other crimes.

As Yerico described, trust in the technology is as important as having trust in the officers in the field. “Nothing will ever replace what an officer oversees on the street and what he relays back to the department,” she said.

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