According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), the crime index decreased for the ninth straight year in 2000, declining 3.3 percent from 1999. The UCR Program collects information from local law enforcement agencies about crimes reported to police and includes homicide, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft.
Although the national trend in crime is down, the Chester City Police Department (CPD) wasn’t satisfied with its crime fighting measures. The only city located in Delaware County, Pa., Chester had a history of high, concentrated crime. “We wanted to identify the hot spots and strategize to reduce crime,” said Cyrise Dixon, the Crime Mapping Coordinator for CPD. The department decided to take a pro-active approach to its law enforcement practices by implementing GeoCAMS.
Chester’s version of GeoCAMS is known as the Chester Crime Analysis and Mapping System (CCAMS). This flexible application enables law enforcement personnel to search for, map, and analyse incident and intelligence data, as well as generate deployment plans. This revolutionary product was developed by GeoDecisions, a software-independent technology company.
CCAMS consists of three spatial components. The first allows a user to see what happened, as well as where and when a crime took place. The second enables users to create a tactical deployment plan, by drawing on a map and alerting law enforcement personnel close to the scene. The third component, the detective information mapping tool, gives users the opportunity to create a map that records the physical, social, and location-based characteristics of a suspect. This spatial web of activity shows where a suspect lives and works, as well as the places he/she frequents. All of this information can be queried. It is the first application of its kind to build spatial and temporal webs of information for use in law enforcement.
Prior to the implementation of CCAMS, the CPD used a pin map system. Using a paper map, law enforcement personnel would literally use a pin to mark the location of a crime, in an effort to observe activity. With the implementation of computers three years ago and a $110,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency in 2000, the CPD was finally able to take a more modern approach to its crime fighting practices. CPD began working with GeoDecisions in July 2000 and immediately began plans to implement GeoCAMS. However, CCAMS wasn’t implemented overnight.
Although CCAMS has been operational since October 2001, the project is not yet complete. However, CPD is already seeing the fruits of its labour. “We have had phenomenal results,” Dixon said. “It helped reduce the number of stolen vehicles in the city.” It has also helped curb person-to-person crime near Widener University.