The Intelligence of Modern Policing

Intelligence-led policing combines data and information with a top-down business like operational model used to address specific crime issues. Information is analyzed to identify trends, locations and offenders which allows top police executives to efficiently dispatch officers and resources to eliminate serious crimes perpetrated by serious, but small groups of offenders.

When you hear the term intelligence-led policing you might think of some type of covert, spy movie type of surveillance to gather information in a shadowy type of way.

In the world of policing, it means something totally different. Intelligence-led policing can be defined as a policing philosophy that follows a business or managerial model of operating an organization. Intelligence-led policing allows police departments to utilize data and information in order better evaluate crime trends and issues, thus allowing top decision makers to efficiently and effectively allocate resources and develop crime fighting strategies.

In other words, police departments can incorporate a decision-making system where information about crimes, crime trends, and specific groups of offenders is analyzed and then paired with executive strategies to properly direct ground level officers’ actions and resources in a specific, targeted effort for the sole purpose of reducing, eliminating and preventing specific crime issues and offenders.

Origins of Intelligence-led Policing

The origins of intelligence-led policing begin in the United Kingdom within the Kent Constabulary in the 1990’s as a response to budget cuts and growing trends in property crime. Essentially, the belief at the time was that there were a small number of offenders contributing to the vast majority of property crimes. Within this philosophy, less time was devoted to less crime-related calls to service, and more time was devoted to create information gathering units specifically analyzing the property crime issues. Essentially, the Kent Constabulary was most focused on targeting specific property crimes and the offenders responsible for them. As a result, they reduced the property crime rate by 24 percent.

Intelligence-led Policing in the United States

This model was adopted by police departments in the United States soon after the Kent model in the 1990’s. In its evolution within the police agencies, intelligence-led policing has taken root as a top downinformation based system. In a very simple model, crime analysts or analysis units take data from records, databases, and statements to identify trends and patterns.

In collaboration with various units within the police departments, this information is transformed into strategic actionable knowledge. In other words, this intelligence allows proper actions, strategies, and resources to be implemented in a specific way. This results in a targeted plan to combat specific crime issues and offenders that flows back down to the street level investigators and officers within the impacted crime areas.

For example, a police department analyzed crime trends in a popular area of the city. A plan was developed to specifically target socially impactful crimes such as burglaries. Information was gathered through archival data, crime patterns, victim reports, and street informants to produce a crime fighting model prioritizing a select group of offenders responsible for breaking and entering, robbery, and narcotics which ultimately reduced crime in that area.

Model of Intelligence-led Policing

This exemplifies the traditional intelligence-led policing 3-part model as follows:

(1) analysts interpret the crime trends and patterns;

(2) information, or intelligence, allows decision makers to form strategies to impact specific crimes and serious offenders;

(3) the plans and resources flow down to based level officers to disrupt the crimes and offenders.

The base model of intelligence-led policing

Intelligence-led policing has also evolved into the utilization of fusion centers which are large data analysis units solely devoted to constantly collecting information and data from various government, public, and private sources in order to fuse together intelligence for decision makers. This is most widely used in counter-terrorism efforts at the federal, state and local levels. However, it is also a mainstay within law enforcement agencies aimed at combating detrimental crimes perpetrated by serious groups of offenders.

The types of offenders that have been targeted include gangs, mafias, drug cartels, or groups of criminals operating in certain areas revealing a specific set of trends. A real world application can be viewed through an in-state regional fusion center established to coordinate all of the flow of information between various state law enforcement agencies to develop intelligence for executive police managers in order to direct the actions of a select group of ground level police personnel with specific pools of resources, making them available 24-7 to combat targeted crime issues.

Lesson Summary

Essentially, intelligence-led policing is a policing philosophy that takes on a business-like, decision-making, and managerial type of operational model. This top-down model enables information to be collected and analyzed so that specific, targeted crime issues, crime areas, and serious offenders are disrupted and eliminated. The collected data is transformed into intelligence which allows top police executives to make the appropriate decisions and strategies in order to expend the most energy in reducing and preventing the most detrimental crimes committed by a few but serious offenders.