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The Benefits of Real-Time Crime Index Information

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During a time when many agencies report being understaffed, the timely response to gun violence is increasingly crucial. Identifying crime trends nationally, through a Real-Time Crime Index, can inform policing strategies, policies, and help guide overall public safety response.

In recent years, the United States has experienced dramatic increases in gun violence. Currently, the United States lacks the infrastructure to identify crime trends in real-time, making it hard to identify the causes of these dramatic increases until months or even years after they’ve occurred. The Real-Time Crime Index is a way to share this information as it happens, providing insights and data to drive investigations and help manage policing resources.

The Real-Time Crime Index project is fully funded, allowing agencies to participate at no cost. Led by AH Datalytics, it “…will serve as a new piece of public data infrastructure that will allow users to visualize monthly counts of Uniform Crime Report (UCR) Part I Index Crimes.”

Crime Data Collection in the United States

According to a recent study, there’s been a 70% increase in non-fatal shootings, a 47% increase in mass shootings, and a 57% increase in firearm homicides since 2020. Simultaneously, nearly half the agencies in another survey report that understaffing is law enforcement’s largest problem. At the national level, crime data in America is gathered and analyzed much like it was in the 1920s and 1930s. Implementing the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) has allowed for some advancements in data collection, yet many agencies aren’t NIBRS-compliant.

Within communities, crime is consistently reported as one of the top issues on people’s minds, and yet the crime data being used to inform policing is not current.  The FBI reports its crime data for a year nine to ten months after the end of that calendar year. So, it can take anywhere from nine to twenty months for a given incident of gun violence to make it onto the public record. As a result, public policy changes often lag, which in turn limits the efficacy of the changes that are implemented and exacerbates the crime problem in America.

Real-Time Crime Index

Rapidly evolving situations require near real-time information, and with the development of the RTCI, agencies will be able to assess ongoing crime spikes or trends across jurisdictions, respond with timely intervention strategies, and increase public accountability with improved data transparency. The Real-Time Crime Index (RTCI) is a tool that compiles monthly crime data from participating police departments to analyze crime trends visually. The privately funded project will allow law enforcement agencies, community members, journalists, academics, policymakers, analysts, and others to view the data, informing policing and policy decisions.

By taking monthly data from 500-1000 local police departments, all serving a population of 50,000 or more, we can produce a widely accessible piece of public data for anybody to look up and analyze crime data across the United States. The RTCI does not need additional support from participating agencies as the data included is from monthly crime reporting of Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Part 1 crimes, yet provides access to the data.

Some of the core features of the RTCI include:

  • Interactive dashboards and visualizations
  • Regular updates with the latest monthly data
  • National and regional/state-level crime trends
  • Customizable views (e.g., by agency, crime type)

Data-sharing and Transparency

Many law enforcement agencies already share data, which may be between agencies or a real-time crime center. However, the amalgamated overview data may not be publicly available to researchers, academics, or community members who can weigh in on possible solutions or provide insight into crime trends.

SoundThinking’s CrimeTracer Crime Map is a community-focused feature like a CompStat report that allows the public to see high-level information on the types of crimes occurring in their community. Similarly, the RTCI information will be available to those who can study, advise, and advocate for legislative and policy decisions.

How Can You Participate?

The RTCI is working to reach the goal of 500-1000 agencies across the United States participating. Agencies are welcome to be part of the project at no cost and with minimal time needed to share the data already being collected on Part I crimes.

The RTCI project understands the limited data capabilities of many agencies and makes participation as easy as possible, providing technical assistance and training as needed. The RTCI will work with you to develop an upload portal and accept the data in any format. The project is a way for agencies to come together by sharing the data and creating an analytics piece that can help identify and react to crime trends more quickly for years to come.

Next Steps

During a time when many agencies report being understaffed, the timely response to gun violence quickly is becoming increasingly crucial as gun crimes rise. Identifying crime trends nationally quickly to inform policing strategies, public policies, and overall public safety response is crucial. The current infrastructure does not allow the timely sharing of UCR Part I crime data, but the RTCI will make that information available more quickly.

Watch the Real-Time Crime Index webinar on-demand to learn more about the project and see how your agency can participate.

Watch the Webinar

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Jerome Filip
Jerome Filip is the PR Manager at SoundThinking where he focuses on developing and executing earned media...Show More
Jerome Filip is the PR Manager at SoundThinking where he focuses on developing and executing earned media and thought leadership strategies that elevate awareness of SoundThinking's value and impact on the world. He has ten years of experience managing public relations agencies and communications plans for political campaigns, non-profits, and tech companies. He has a Master of Public Administration degree from American University and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Boise State University. Show Less