Crime Analysis Using Vermont NIBRS Data: A Partnership Between Law Enforcement and Universities
Law enforcement agency commitment to the data quality of their crime reporting program is believed to be enhanced when law enforcement agencies utilize incident-based data (IBR) or National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) data for crime analysis. The problem is that many law enforcement agencies have neither the staffing nor the expertise to undertake crime analysis activities. The Vermont Center for Justice Research - Vermont's SAC - recently brokered partnerships between 10 Vermont law enforcement agencies/service providers and students enrolled in a crime analysis and mapping course being offered at Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont, to undertake a series of strategic crime analysis projects in agencies around the state.
Student teams used statewide NIBRS data available from the Vermont Department of Public Safety to analyze the topics suggested by the agencies. Students wrote a final report and created a PowerPoint suitable for use by the agency for future presentations to their staff, town government, and/or the community. The agencies provided additional data as needed and came to campus to participate in a presentation of the project results conducted by their student team.
A sample of topics included in this year's project included:
The Need for Police Services
A sheriff's department requested that their team conduct an analysis to see if two ski towns that receive part-time police services from the sheriff needed their own police departments. Analysis between comparable ski towns with and without police departments was conducted for crime rates, victimization patterns, crime costs, and temporal and seasonal incidence rates.
Town and Village Merger
A town currently receives police services from the Vermont State Police. There has been a request that the village police department take over responsibility for policing the town. Would such a merger be possible with current personnel? The project involved comparative officer caseload analysis between similar jurisdictions, the incidence of crime types, and temporal analysis.
The Vermont State Police (VSP) was interested in restructuring the number of troopers assigned to each of their 12 barracks. In order to provide access to all calls for service, the VSP provided their student teams with view-only access to their incident crime reporting software. Case per trooper loads were developed by both total volume and types of calls by barracks and troop areas.
Thefts from Vehicles
A municipal police department was experiencing a spike in thefts from vehicles. The agency requested that the student team conduct a comprehensive analysis of this crime within the town's jurisdiction. Analysis included hot spot maps, temporal analysis, victimization, method of operation (MO), and loss analysis.
Disposition of Domestic Violence Cases
A statewide domestic violence agency was interested in statewide information regarding clearance types and rates for domestic violence incidents. Analysis focused on the distribution of domestic violence cases that were cleared by arrest, exceptional clearance, or not cleared. Distributions were created by type of crime, victim data, offender data, injury, weapon use, temporal analysis, law enforcement agency type, and by county.
A municipal police department located at the junction of two major interstate highways was interested in a historical analysis of crime in their jurisdiction. In particular, they were interested in the pattern of drug crime. A 10-year analysis of the agency's crime data was conducted, which focused on crime rates by type of incident, crime losses, victim characteristics, defendant characteristics, and temporal and seasonal variation. The drug crime analysis focused on the type and amount of drugs involved in reported arrests.
A municipal police department was preparing a budget request that included two new officer positions. The agency requested a comparative analysis of police staffing in comparable jurisdictions. The analysis focused on determining which jurisdictions would provide a valid comparison. Population data, crime rates, socioeconomic indicators, temporal analysis, crime mapping, and officer caseload data were developed for the analysis.
Participating agencies were unanimously pleased with the quality of both the analysis and the final products. Some of the PowerPoints have been posted to agency websites; others have been presented to town government or to community groups. Agencies also became aware of data quality issues with their reporting program. In some cases hotspot maps could not be developed because of poor addressing. In other cases the analysis was dated because the agency was not current in its NIBRS reports. Finally, some reports were hampered by missing data.
Student course evaluations clearly indicated that one of the most valuable aspects of the crime analysis class involved the final crime analysis project. One student summed up their crime analysis experience this way: "Being able to work on a project that could affect something more than my grade was a real motivator for me."