City Audit Echoes Burgess, Says SPD Isn’t Using Tools It Has to Fight Crime

A city audit has found gaps in how the Seattle Police Department analyzes and handles crime stats, echoing concerns raised by council member Tim Burgess in an essay yesterday that SPD isn’t using the tools its has to redistribute cops to fight crime.

The auditor’s report says SPD “lacks sufficient capacity to make sophisticated use of data”  and “has a shortage of fully-skilled” staff analyzing crime.

After studying how 23 cities analyze crime data, the auditor’s office found that s SPD isn’t mining data from other resources—like probation data, property listings, and phone data—when looking at crime hot spots, and that SPD’s 11 crime analysts aren’t fully trained in the use of crime mapping software,

While the auditor’s report acknowledges that SPD is in the “upper third” of the 23 cities in terms of how they mine data to fight or prevent crime, the report still says the department needs to do more with what it has.

For instance, “only two” of the department’s 11 analysts have used a piece of software designed to analyze gang membership, and the department has “no plan to assist staff in developing proficiency in its use,” the report says, also noting some of the department’s analysts have learned to use crime mapping software through “trial and error” because of the cost of fully training them to use the software.

The auditor’s office has recommended SPD make greater efforts to mine the data it collects, keep detectives in the analysis unit longer for the sake of continuity, partner with a university to study crime, automate some of the work done by the department’s crime analysts, and make more crime data accessible to the public.