Sat | Dec 10, 2016

Mapping crime - Police testing new computer programme to keep track of criminality

Published:Sunday | December 21, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Head of the St Andrew Central Police Division, Senior Superintendent Fitz Bailey (centre), gets computer advice from Dr Parris Lyew-Ayee Jr (right), director of the Mona GeoInformatics Institute, and Saffrey Brown, general manager of the JN Foundation. - Contributed

With the 2014 Global Status Report on Violence Prevention last week showing Jamaica third on the list of countries with the most murders in 2012, police in one of the country's crime hot spots are getting help to fight the monster.

Police in the St Andrew Central Division, where 39 persons have been killed since the start of this year, are pioneering the use of a new crime mapping system to improve their responsiveness to issues arising in the community.

Cops at the Half-Way Tree headquarters of the division will apply the mapping technology to the raw data on incidents they now receive, to show where the reports are occurring.

The project is the result of a partnership between the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the Mona GeoInformatics Institute, with the JNBS Foundation donating the first computer to start the project.

"We expect it to be beneficial to our crime fighting initiative," said Fitz Bailey, senior superintendent in charge of the St Andrew Central Division. He said, based on the outcome of the pilot programme, the mapping system could be adopted by the entire Constabulary Force.

Highly secured

The project involves the entering of all reports which come to the division into the computer system, along with their location. The system, which is highly secured, will produce a map of these reports, to assist the police to determine whether they follow any geographic patterns.

"It should assist us in our deployment strategy," Bailey said as he received the donated computer at the JN Group office in Half-Way Tree, St Andrew, last Wednesday. "We can divert resources based on what we see happening."

Mona GeoInformatics Institute's director, Dr Parris Lyew-Ayee Jr, explained that the 'Situational Assessment Tool' will allow the police to clearly see where incidents are occurring in the division. It will also facilitate tracking emerging trends, which might otherwise have been overlooked.

"It is not only criminal activity which gets logged at police stations, as they also handle public complaints about a variety of other issues," said Lyew-Ayee Jr. "The new tool aims to assist them in managing all of this data."

Excellent test bed

According to Lyew-Ayee Jr, the St Andrew Central Division is an excellent test bed for the new system, as it is one of the most diverse police divisions in the country.

He noted that along with the standard factors of most other urban divisions, which include communities stretching from Barbican to Cross Roads, it also is concerned with security at major institutions, such as the National Stadium, Hope Gardens, King's House, the Office of the Prime Minister, and the Half-Way Tree Transport Centre.

In outlining her entity's decision to partner on the test project, Saffrey Brown, general manager of the JN Foundation, noted that crime has impacted negatively on communities across the country and the Situational Assessment Tool will help to observe the context in which criminal activities are taking place.

Brown noted that the JN Foundation had previously funded Mona GeoInformatics in mapping crash 'hot spots' across the island, and partnered with JN General Insurance Company to erect 'Crash Hot Spot' billboards and signs to inform the public of these danger zones.

"The data about trends in crime, which the police would be deriving from the new mapping system, could also be of value to the wider public," said Brown as she suggested that the police might consider publicising the more important trends."