HPD Tracks Crime in Real Time

Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt is touting a new crime-fighting center the department is about to open. The real-time crime center will use technology and crime analysts to track and predict crime trends. Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports.

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HPD Chief Harold Hurtt spent the better part of two hours explaining the Real-Time Crime Center to members of Houston City Council. Hurtt says the center will link databases from federal, state and county agencies and provide immediate information to officers in the field.

"For example, the information will be provided to field units while they're in route to a call. Information such as location history, presence of weapons, names of suspects, types of vehicles involved will all be available to the officer. Further, a determination can be made as to whether the call is part of a trend or cluster or involving a serial criminal."

For example, officers could enter partial license plate numbers or even descriptions of tattoos and the software could trawl multiple agency databases, providing nearly instant feedback on possible suspects. The center is modeled best after practices in the Chicago and Los Angeles police departments, and specifically the New York Police Department's CompStat system.

"I would like to describe ourξ -- the entirety of all the effort that we've talked about here today -- as CompStat on steroids because we're going to be able to provide more information than the system they have in New York. I think our system of accountability and sharing information between patrols and investigations is very promising."

Hurtt told councilmembers officers could eventually be able to use the data and software to predict crime trends and prevent them before they occur. Houston Mayor Bill White says the city appropriated $2.9 million for the center.

"This is going to be a huge change in the tools that our police have to do policing. We've been pushing it, the Chief and I have, thank the council for providing funding. It's not a substitute for having an officer to respond, but it help us manage the system better and catch the bad guys."

The state provided an additional $1.6 million in equipment and will be watching the Houston program to determine if it could be used as a model for other Texas cities. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

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