Monday 23 September 2019

Garda number crunchers are key to fighting crime

Burglars: Figures show that 26pc enter through a window
Burglars: Figures show that 26pc enter through a window
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

A computer hub in an office in Garda Headquarters has become the unlikely nexus of the latest operation to clamp down on burglaries.

The Garda Analysis Service has produced a wealth of data underpinning the Operation Thor, the policing campaign to target burglaries launched last week. Analysis of thousands of burglaries has helped to produce the crucial information not only on the burglars who are committing crime but the areas where they are most likely to operate.

It also threw up the statistic that 75pc of burglaries are committed by 25pc of burglars.

Gurchand Singh, head of the Garda's analysis services, says data analysis not only charts crime trends but also helps predict crime, throwing up some surprising data. For instance, 4pc of householders who have been burgled once can expect the burglars to return - most likely within five weeks or at your neighbour's home within seven. The reason is that burglars become familiar with an area.

"What we found from our analysis was that after the initial incidence the probability of you becoming a victim of crime again increases. It increases for a five-week period. For near repeat burglaries (burglaries of your neighbours' homes), it's about a seven-week period. Knowing this is really important because what that allows us to do is focus our efforts into those areas," said Singh.

"We can begin to map it up and say ok, here are our risk zones for a period of time...What we can do is get directed patrolling into those areas."

Analysts have found that for the vast majority of burglaries, intruders get in through the front door, the back door or the window: 29pc are through the front door, 26pc through a rear window, and 22pc through a rear door. "Knowing this pattern allows....our crime prevention people to put together really good packages of information based on their experiences," said Singh.

Singh's research has also identified that while some burglars are "inter-regional" and will travel to other districts to commit crime, others don't stray further than three to five kilometres from their homes.

While analysis does not identify suspects, "what we can do is we know the incident type, that it was a burglary, we have got the day it was committed, the time it was committed, the location, we have also now started recording coordinates, the latitude and longitude, so we can start mapping it," said Singh.

Other statistical nuggets -such as one-third of burglaries occurring between 5pm and 8pm - have fed into national crime prevention campaigns, which advised home owners to deter burglars by simply turning on the house alarm and locking doors and windows.

Operation Thor will aggressively target 200 of the country's most prolific burglars, and six criminal gangs in operating across the country, using research provided by the Garda's analysis service.

The package was launched Minister for Justice, Frances Ftizgerald and the Garda Commissioner, Noirin O'Sullivan, who have come under pressure in recent months over rural burglaries.

The Commissioner, who believes more data analytics should be used against crime, is currently hiring more data analysts to beef up the team of around 20.

The €5 million national strategy also involves a new fleet of high-powered BMW and Audi SUVs, high-visibility checkpoints, and increased patrols on motorways to curtail the movements of travelling criminals.

Sunday Independent

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