Earlier this year, the Ceres Police Department took another step into the future of law enforcement by instituting a crime analysis unit. The analyst that was hired is highly trained in data "harvesting," computer usage and building relationships with representatives of other law enforcement agencies for the purpose of sharing suspect and crime trend information. Our analyst has regularly provided analyzed data to help patrol officers and detectives solves crimes and has given officers information that allowed them to deter crime by saturating areas where crimes were forecasted as likely to happen.
Crime analysis is the function of using all information available, including crime statistics, field interrogation information, officers' knowledge, computerized criminal databases, dispatch center information, informant information, parolee release information, information shared between law enforcement agencies, and other sources to identify crime trends in terms of locations, time frames and likely suspects. The analyst studies criminal relationships by linking suspects to criminal organizations or events. This helps in determining who is doing what and with whom in terms of crime.
Note that we do not refer to crime analysis as a program. If labeled as a program, it tends to imply that it is not a core function of the police department. For example, the patrol function is never referred to as a program, because everyone knows that it is the backbone of a police department's existence. And for crime analysis to really work as intended, it has to be seen and treated similarly as an indispensable aspect of the police organization.
It is fair to say that, while the Ceres Police Department crime analysis function is still in its infancy, we recently attained yet another milestone by going live with a data sharing system called Coplink. Coplink is a data sharing system that, in effect, links the various law enforcement agencies' data systems together and allows participating agencies to access information that was previously not available through existing state or federal systems. This information includes calls for service records, traffic stop information and field interrogations. The aforementioned was previously accessible, but to obtain it was tedious, laborious, and often not timely.
Coplink changes all of that and will help both in terms of forecasting crimes and identifying crime trends, as well as assist with criminal investigations being conducted by patrol officers and detectives. The system will also aid in missing person cases, human trafficking cases and other situations where peoples' lives and welfare are at stake.
Challenges to the law enforcement mission and community safety are continuously increasing, so it is important that we use all legal, moral and ethical tools at our disposal in support of that mission. This is especially true during this time of failing prisoner incarceration policies and resources, and when American society, as a whole, seems to be destabilized owing to a faltering economy and other reasons.
Crime analysis is a critical component to how law enforcement services are rendered, and it is important to efficiency. However, regardless of how sophisticated technology gets, the solving of crimes will always require trained humans with expertise and experience. Having crime analysis will help law enforcement do the best it possibly can to keep our communities safe.
Art De Werk is the Chief of Public Safety in Ceres