State Police rely more on data to fight crime

By MATTHEW HALL

Capital News Service

LANSING – Aside from more troopers, data analysts could be the best way to boost crime prevention efforts, said Col. Kristie Etue, the head of the State Police.

Since Gov. Jennifer Granholm left office in 2011, budget cuts contributed to closing the majority of State Police posts across Michigan, she said. Funding has begun to increase recently, though, and the department is looking at a new way to prevent crime.

With fewer and fewer troopers, the department has come to rely on data in order to tackle crime, Etue said. Now she wants to expand its data-driven activities.

Hotspot policing is the “bricks and mortar” of what the department does, said Etue, indicating that law enforcement and traffic safety decisions are now driven by data.

Data analyses allow the State Police to pinpoint the physical locations, or “hotspots,” where robbery, murder, rape and even traffic accidents occur.

Instead of tackling crime merely through force of numbers, the department can target resources where they’re needed most and sometimes prevent crimes in the first place.

Having more troopers would allow  more mobility in deploying personnel to hotspots. It would also allow other activities such as officers in classrooms and school initiatives like DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), she said.

Currently, there are 903 troopers at 29 posts. Another 65 graduates joined the ranks from the 125th Trooper Recruit School Oct. 4, said Tiffany Brown, a State Police public affairs representative.

“Our five-year goal is to reach a strength of 1,380 at-post troopers,” she said.

One analyst was reassigned to focus on crime prevention, and four new analysts will support the Secure Cities Partnership. The partnership is an initiative to use “smart justice” to improve safety and economic performance in Michigan’s most violent cities with data and community services, she said.

More analysts should be considered in the future, Etue said.

Data analysis is one of the primary tools in efforts to prevent crime, as opposed to merely enforcing the laws after they are broken.

When Gov. Rick Snyder outlined his Secure Cities initiative in 2012, crime prevention was a key feature, according to Nicole Lisabeth, the State Police data assurance unit manager.

That initiative places special emphasis on cities with the most violent crime: Flint, Detroit, Saginaw and Pontiac.

Data analyses have identified some of the biggest criminal hotspots in areas of those cities. The State Police declined to name precisely where, saying disclosure would impede law enforcement efforts.

Flint has 31 troopers, 13 more than last year, and the largest increase among the four cities, Brown said. Due to a decrease in crime in Pontiac, troopers are now deployed there only as needed to address hotspots.

Other areas not in the Secure Cities program which are receiving the most new troopers include the other Tri-City areas of Bay City and Midland (Saginaw is the third) with seven and Brighton with six, according to the State Police.

Brown said she expects troopers to be in high demand as local police departments continue to struggle over the next couple of years with their own funding and staffing problems.
Another key part of prevention is the State Police’s community service efforts, said Sgt. Duane Zook of the Community Service Troopers Division.

The twenty-four community service troopers teach business security, provide personal safety at schools and places of worship, and conduct Teaching, Educating and Mentoring, or TEAM.

TEAM is a K-12 curriculum that teaches topics including bicycle safety and safety regarding strangers, as well as bullying, cyberbullying and sexting, Zook said.

“The unique thing about it is it’s not going to be the same approach from Metro Detroit versus Upper Peninsula. Each of those areas has different needs and issues, and service troopers address the needs of those specific areas.

“As far as the impact on our communities, you have to start with the youth,” Zook said. The program’s biggest goal is reaching out to prepare youth to become leaders in their communities as they grow up.

That is a vital part of the prevention puzzle, according to Lisabeth, one that echoes Etue’s oft-repeated phrase: “We can’t arrest our way out of crime in these communities.”

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