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Virginia Institute for Justice Information Systems Plans Giveaway of Crime-Fighting Software

April 7, 2000 -- On April 28, University of Virginia systems engineering professor Don Brown and his colleagues at the Virginia Institute for Justice Information Systems (VIJIS) will make an innovative crime-fighting program available over the World Wide Web for free.

The software, ReCAP-SDE, will enable small police departments around the world to better track and analyze crimes in their jurisdictions. The ultimate goal is to help law enforcement agencies anticipate the time and place of likely criminal activity, allowing them to better allocate their resources and improve service to their communities within their current budgets.

"Our tests of this software have shown that it picks up on subtle increases in criminal activity by as much as three months before they are noticed by crime analysts," Brown said.

Brown and U.Va.'s Virginia Institute for Justice Information Systems decided on the giveaway of the small department edition of the software as a community service.

"Police departments everywhere shoulder a lot of responsibility to try and keep their communities safe with limited resources," Brown said. "This was something we could do to help law enforcement do a better job of mapping and analyzing crime data."

The Regional Crime Analysis Program – Small Department Edition (ReCAP-SDE) works with a police department's existing records management system, a geographic information system (GIS), and data mining tools.

The software enables law enforcement officers to identify patterns in crime data, including the location and time of crimes and changes in their frequency.

Included in the toolbox are:

  • A set of mapping tools, one of which allows the analyst to select all crimes or specific types of crimes in a given area and view those crimes in the form of a list. For example, an analyst might be interested in all of the burglaries in the vicinity of a particular liquor store.

  • A control-chart tool that allows the user to determine whether the number of crimes is unusually high or low. If the number of crimes is higher than usual, corrective action may be needed. The control-chart tool can be run automatically at night or in the background, to look for changing patterns of criminal behavior. If a change happens, the crime analyst is notified.

  • The time-charting tool plots the number of crimes occurring at a particular time of the day, day of the week, or day of the month. This tool allows an analyst to determine, for example, if burglaries are more likely to occur in the afternoon, on Saturday nights, or on certain days of the month.

  • The tactical-analysis tool permits the analyst to calculate similarity between crimes. For example, the analyst could compare a burglary in which the criminal used a crowbar to pry open the back door with all of the other burglaries in the database. The tactical-analysis tool would return those crimes that were an exact match and those crimes that were similar, for example, a burglary in which the criminal opened the front door with a tire iron.

ReCAP-SDE also makes it easier to create reports about the number and location of crimes, reducing the time and cost of such reporting.

This software is particularly appropriate for small rural police departments that run a crime analysis once a week or less, Brown said. It can be downloaded by any police department with a standard Windows (98/NT/2000) computer. The system is straightforward and simple to operate by police officers with minimal computer literacy. The Virginia Institute for Justice Information Systems will offer support via telephone, email, and over the Internet.

The program has been under development for four years by Brown and a battalion of graduate and undergraduate students in systems engineering at the University of Virginia. Support also has been provided by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services and the National Institute of Justice, among other sources.

VIJIS will continue to charge a fee for its more complex version of the software, ReCAP, which is appropriate for large, busy, urban police departments. Revenues are reinvested in software development, support of VIJIS and related systems engineering classes at U.Va.

Law enforcement agencies that have participated in the development of the software include the police departments in Albemarle County, Va., and the cities of Charlottesville and Richmond, Va., the University of Virginia Police Department, the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, the Crime Mapping Research Center at the National Institute of Justice, and the GIS Unit of the U.S. Department of Justice.

For more information on ReCAP, contact Donald Brown, at (804) 924- 2074 or at deb@virginia.edu; or contact Jason Dalton at (804) 924-5397 or at jrd7y@virginia.edu. Visit the web site: http://vijis.sys.Virginia.EDU/vijis/

Contact: Charlotte Crystal, (804) 924-6858

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: please contact the Office of University Relations at (804) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.
SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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