Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Table 2: Understanding the Problem

Data and Information Commonly Used in an Environmental Analysis

Examples of Information Collected: Rationale Source(s), Availability and Responsibility
Crime Data

calls for service reported crime: total crime crime rate crime type crime trends spatial distribution: crime location(s) “hot spots” temporal distribution: times of day days of the week seasonal changes MO (modus operandi, or how the crimes are carried out): target characteristics victim characteristics offender characteristics

Analysis of calls for service and crime incidents gives greater clarity to the problem and also some direction with regard to the other types of data and information that will need to be collected.

Crime data is collected and maintained by the police agency (records division or crime analysis unit) or by the locality’s management information systems department.

Crime mapping and geographic information systems (GIS) may be the responsibility of the police agency, or may be handled by another department, e.g., p lanning, engineering, or utilities.

Population Characteristics

age and gender race and ethnicity family or household size and composition family or household income

Community characteristics are helpful for thinking about routines and activities and the potential for victimization. They may also suggest a focus for crime prevention programs or other interventions.

Population demographics are available through the U.S. Census (see www.census.gov), which is regularly updated for larger localities through the American Community Survey. Smaller communities or neighborhoods must be updated using surveys unless another agency has already undertaken this work.

Institutional and Organizational Relationships

neighborhood association/homeowners’ association

block watch/neighborhood watch group

churches, clubs, public/private schools, hospitals, community centers or other neighborhood-based institutions

local development corporations and other nonprofits engaged in work in the neighborhood

Community organizations and local institutions play several roles related to the problem-solving process and the implementation of crime prevention through environmental design strategies:

  • they represent stakeholders, and may be able to gather input from individuals who would otherwise be unavailable
  • they have access to data and information
  • their members and/or staff may be able to assist with surveys and interviews
  • the institutional facilities can serve as sites for meetings
  • they may have resources to commit to solving the problem

Locating complete lists for community associations and nonprofit organizations is often difficult; however, several opportunities are available. The neighborhood planning unit should maintain a list of neighborhood associations, and the police agency should have information about Neighborhood Watch groups in the community. Information about community centers and other institutions may be found through an Information and Referral Service or an online locator (e.g., www.GuideStar.org). Other options include the local interfaith council or ministerial association, a volunteer center, or the social services department.

Land Use and Development Patterns

land use: type and mix of land uses residential buildings/dwelling units office/commercial buildings/spaces or total square feet of leasable space businesses by business type major facilities, landmarks or attractions, e.g., parks, schools property ownership (public/private) natural resources and attractive nuisances, e.g., lakes, rivers, streams, rocks development rules and regulations outlined in zoning, subdivision, landscaping or other ordinances neighborhood stability: housing or building condition tenure (owner-renter mix) occupancy/vacancy rates turnover (new sales, new leases, new vacancies) property values: average rent average sales price assessed value development activity: construction permits demolition permits occupancy permits violations and citations: building code housing code health code

The mix of uses determines the kinds of activities that take place in a building/site/area, when and where they happen, and who participates in them.

Items such as housing condition or turnover do not cause problems, but are symptoms or outcomes of issues. They are indicators of reinvestment or disinvestment in the neighborhood, or a general lack of care, and disrespect for property and community.

Information on existing land use and future development is the responsibility of the planning department (comprehensive planning unit, long-range planning, zoning administration, development review).

Property data is housed with the assessor. Some statistics, such as turnover or average rent, may be gathered from real estate advertisements or local agents. The U.S. Census (www.census.gov) also collects data on housing costs.

Business information may be handled by either the planning or economic development departments.

Many localities now have online GIS systems that include information on land use, zoning, ownership, assessed value and other property characteristics. The system may be administered by a single person or organization (possibly even a consulting firm), or multiple departments may be responsible for maintaining data related to their areas of responsibility.

Permits and violations are handled by zoning administration, codes enforcement, or the public health agency.

Traffic, Transportation and Transit Systems

transportation networks: interstate and other highways major intersections local and regional connector routes pedestrian and bike ways (sidewalks, trails, greenways, etc.) site circulation, ingress and egress on- and off-street parking spaces/lots/garages traffic: common origin/destination sites and travel routes daily/weekly volumes peak (rush hour) loads accidents transit system: ridership and user characteristics routes and schedules transit stops/shelters/centers transfer locations neighborhood complaints: speeding cruising loitering

Patterns of crime and other problems are often related to patterns of movement that bring people to and through sites, neighborhoods, localities and regions.

Road and traffic information for most localities is a function of the state transportation department. Regional transportation planning agencies should also have this information.

Neighborhood- or site-related traffic issues will require new studies, local data collection and observations of traffic flows, turning movements, or other traffic-related activity.

The transit company should maintain information on its system and operations. Most complaints are wagered with the police agency.

Resident/User Surveys or Stakeholder Interviews

define and explain the problem (real or perceived) victimization: reported unreported reasons for not reporting fear: where people are afraid why people are afraid schedules and activities during an average day/week/month/season concerns, attitudes, opinions and suggestions about neighborhood quality of life

Patterns of crime and other problems are often related to patterns of movement that bring people to and through sites, neighborhoods, localities and regions.

Road and traffic information for most localities is a function of the state transportation department. Regional transportation planning agencies should also have this information.

Neighborhood- or site-related traffic issues will require new studies, local data collection and observations of traffic flows, turning movements, or other traffic-related activity.

The transit company should maintain information on its system and operations. Most complaints are wagered with the police agency.

On-site Observations

problem behaviors: loitering vandalism and graffiti public drinking drug sales or drug use gang activity legitimate play or other activities distribution of activities: when activities are most likely to occur where activities take place user characteristics: age, gender, race/ethnicity resident, owner, staff/employee, patrons, invited visitors, others consistency between reported behaviors and observed activities

Observations should reinforce the results of surveys and interviews (when the observed activities are consistent with reported behaviors), and should offer support for crime statistics and other data and documentation.

 

Safety Audits and Security Surveys

building and site characteristics: floor plans site design and layout ingress/egress, circulation and parking plant materials and landscape elements lighting crime prevention and security measures: locking systems and key control lighting and illumination CCTV security maintenance and repair emergency operations plans security policies and procedures operations: staffing activities and schedules rules, regulations, policies, and procedures

Audits and security surveys provide details the other sources of information do not, specifically with regard to building or site conditions, target hardening and security measures, etc. They also begin to expose connections between the problem and staffing or policy.

Depending on the location and the type of problem, police personnel (crime prevention unit) may be able to train homeowners and business managers to perform their own evaluations. Generally though, when a security survey is warranted, this should be handled by a knowledgeable professional.

 

† Also refer to the Bureau of Justice Assistance (1993) [PDF] monograph, A Police Guide to Surveying Citizens and Their Environment.