CAP Index Data Used in Predictive Policing Tactics by Sheriff’s Department

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Police Car from Hanover County Sheriff in VirginiaEstablished in 1720, the Hanover County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) is the primary law enforcement agency servicing more than 100,000 residents within a 474-square-mile jurisdiction in Hanover County, Virginia.

To keep up with the demands associated with commercial and population growth and the latest trends in crime forecasting, HCSO developed a predictive policing density analysis system to better understand and manage the impact of geographic density variables and crime trends on law enforcement operations.

 “Whenever we present HCSO plans to our Board of Supervisors, and it’s supported by CAP Index data, there are never any questions about the integrity of the analysis process or anything else…”
-Sergeant Sullivan, Hanover County Sherrif’s Office 
The end goal of the HCSO initiative was to deter crime. Toward that end, their research was designed to yield a predictive formula using density analysis attributed to community movement and Calls For Service (CFS) as potential “gateway” crime indicators.

Although the use of data and analytical tools can never be 100% accurate as a predictor of criminal activity, this crime risk management discipline is a proven methodology – both for law enforcement agencies and corporations – for effective utilization of resources and to fill in any missing knowledge gaps in the absence of direct intelligence.

For HCSO, their predictive policing initiative has been attributed to a measurable reduction in criminal activity since the inception of the program. It has also allowed for more effective allocation and placement of law enforcement resources; provided a practical guide for county growth and strategic planning initiatives; and, helped to foster strong partnerships with county planning agencies. 

HCSO’s successful experience with predictive policing methods has been both instructional and rewarding for CAP Index. In our recent interview with Sergeant Terry Sullivan, he acknowledged the important role that CAP continues to play in validating HCSO’s own firsthand research. He noted, “When we’re analyzing our CFS data, types of crime, and population densities, it’s extremely valuable for us to affirm the accuracy of that information through a knowledgeable third party like CAP Index. Very often, your data analysis matches our experience and projections. Sometimes, however, your CRIMECAST Maps might show us an area where your forecast for the victimization rate might be higher than what we’ve calculated; so we take that into account in our resource deployment strategy.”

According to Sergeant Sullivan, CAP Index serves as an authoritative source by validating HCSO’s predictive policing strategy. He said, “Whenever we present HCSO plans to our Board of Supervisors, and it’s supported by CAP Index data, there are never any questions about the integrity of the analysis process or anything else.”

In our interview, Sergeant Sullivan noted that there is a risk in relying solely on past criminal experience to predict future behavior, and that event history needs to be combined with predictive models to create meaningful strategies to deter crime. He said, “Too much emphasis on event history can be misleading, particularly in growing communities with new developments, commercial expansion, and population shifts. In those situations, event-related crime history becomes irrelevant very quickly.”

He added, “HCSO’s management priority continues to be effective resource deployment. If we can put uniformed officers in the right spots, we know that we can deter crime. That’s why our crime rate is so low. Our second priority, related to investigative follow-up, is to apply what we learn about a crime that’s been committed so we are better prepared to prevent similar crimes from happening somewhere else. In both cases, it’s all about leveraging reliable information to anticipate criminal activity before it occurs.”