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How data changed the way Philadelphia's police operate

Posting in Cities

The folks at Technically Philly, a local blog covering the business tech community in that U.S. city, have a nice report this week on how computers and digital databases changed the way the Philadelphia Police Department operates.

Reporter Juliana Reyes interviewed Charles Brennan, the PPD's first deputy commissioner of science and technology, about the department's extended learning curve in changing the way they operate to accomodate computerized systems. It's a nice look at how things have changed from the 1980s -- when computers were so expensive the department could only purchase 10 at a time -- to today, where police officers use smart systems to identify crime patterns and, hopefully, predict where crime is most likely to occur next.

Reyes writes:

Brennan oversaw numerous projects, including putting mobile computers inside cop cars, implementing a digital arrest warrant system and automating payroll. He said he’s most proud of making crime data accessible so officers could do their jobs better. When he started at the Police Department, if an officer wanted data on a certain crime, it would take two weeks to get it, he said.

It took a decade and millions of dollars to pull Philadelphia's law enforcement away from the typewriter, but it seems to have been well worth it. It's a good read.

How Charles Brennan changed how Philly’s cops do their jobs [Technically Philly]

Image: The PPD's GIS software, showing stolen vehicles (red dots) in relation to where they were recovered (blue squares). (ESRI ArcNews)

— By on November 16, 2012, 12:26 AM PST

Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure