Office of Public Affairs

Recent survey by USM's Muskie School recommends improved analysis of crime data by Maine's law enforcement agencies

cover image

A recent survey of law enforcement agencies was conducted by the Maine Statistical Analysis Center at USM's Muskie School of Public Service. Funded by a Bureau of Justice Statistics grant, the survey involved 86 local, county, and state law enforcement agencies throughout the state of Maine and explored the extent to which Maine's agencies are collecting, sharing, analyzing, and using their data.

With the field of law enforcement moving toward a more direct use of data to fight crime, known as "intelligence-led policing," the collection and analysis of data and a high level of collaboration and sharing of intelligence between agencies have become essential. According to the survey, 96% of Maine law enforcement agencies are currently using a record management system (RMS) to collect and store crime related data. "Collectively these systems hold a large amount of data," says George Shaler, senior research associate of USM's Muskie School of Public Service, "and while this suggests that agencies have ready access to a wealth of information to fight crime, in reality there are barriers to accessing and making meaning of this data."

Efforts to share data among agencies are underway --- more than four out of five agencies (81%) said they are currently sharing their data. Most frequently, however, this sharing occurs between local agencies and county agencies; about 50% of agencies that share data do so on a county level. Another 20% said they share data with agencies using the same software vendor. While this is a start, crime is not contained to any one county, and software usage varies from town to town. According to Shaler, "Geographic boundaries and software differences create serious limitations to any given agency's ability to access information from other agencies."

Another barrier encountered by law enforcement agencies is the ability to extract and analyze the data they currently have. The importance of these skills becomes ever more important as the amount of data collected grows. Most agencies, however, do not have analysts on staff, and only three out of every ten agencies seek assistance with analysis from outside agencies. Some agencies undoubtedly have small budgets that don't allow for this type of discretionary spending --- one out of five agencies reported that they lacked even the basic up-to-date technology needed for data collection.

According to Shaler, agencies may need to shift resources so spending is aligned with the priorities of an intelligence-led framework. Doing so, explains Shaler, "will allow agencies to work 'smarter,' focusing limited resources into areas that will give them the greatest return for their time and money."

The full report can be found on the USM Muskie School's Statistical Analysis website.