How North Carolina caught more criminals (and saved $12 million)

Violent crime is on the rise, jumping 3.9% in the U.S. in the most recent annual report. And people have noticed. More than half of Americans polled by Gallup say they worry “a great deal” about crime, the highest level of concern in 15 years. The amount of worry jumped by nearly 25% just one year.

Putting more officers on the streets isn’t the only solution. As you’ll read below, North Carolina has had success fighting crime with data, both in terms of catching more criminals and in lowering the cost of doing so.

But data by itself isn’t enough. The key is making sure officers not only have it, they also need tools to do something meaningful with it. — Kevin Ebi

How North Carolina saved $12 million
North Carolina says with its Criminal Justice Law Enforcement Automated Data Services (CJLEADS), it cut administrative costs by $12 million annually. It developed the application based on a number of technologies from SAS Institute.

The system brings together records that various entities may have on an offender. From courts to law enforcement, probation to parole agencies, everyone working with an offender can get a full view of his or her file, including court, warrant, probation and local jail information. All data is available through a secure web interface.

It also simplifies the process of tracking offenders. Any change of the offender's status, such as an arrest or a release from custody, can trigger an alert.

Preventing criminals from slipping through
Authorities say they are capturing criminals faster and with less effort. In one case, a watch list alert told them that one of the people they wanted was due to appear in court on an unrelated charge. Officers showed up at that hearing and arrested him there, saving hours of effort tracking him down.

In another case, police caught another criminal even though he provided an alias when they pulled him over. When officers searched the system using that alias, they discovered who he really was and what he was wanted for.

In still another case, detectives looking for a thief had a great surveillance camera picture, but no name. His picture matched one in the database.

Seeing the future
The next stage is to use data to solve crimes and prevent trouble before it happens. Collecting data in a single location makes it easier to determine the biggest problem spots and send resources to them accordingly.

Predictive analytics goes a step farther, using historical data to identify trends, predicting where crimes will happen before they do.