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Marion Police and UI Public Policy Center forge Partnership

By Hayley Bruce for Iowa Now; Posted 9/27/17 at 8:32 a.m.

Post Date:10/03/2017 4:36 PM

The Marion Police Department is teaming up with University of Iowa researchers to take a proactive step toward reducing crime and improving policing strategies.

As part of a partnership with the UI Public Policy Center’s Crime and Justice Policy Research Program, Marion police will work with researchers to learn about intelligence-led policing and network analysis.

Over the next six months, Mark Berg, director of the research program and associate professor in the UI Department of Sociology, and Ethan Rogers, a research coordinator with the program, will analyze data already collected by the department—such as calls for service—to help Marion police develop a new beat structure that responds to the specific needs of the community they serve. Researchers will formulate those beats by taking into account the seriousness of a crime, the amount of time required to respond to calls, and the areas where serious crimes occur.

“Essentially, we will conduct data analysis to help the police department understand where to put their resources as their community continues to grow and evolve,” says Berg.

In addition, the Public Policy Center researchers will employ social network analysis to identify individuals within Marion and surrounding areas who are disproportionately involved in serious criminal behavior.

“This strategy attempts to evaluate the number of serious offenders within an area and identify those who occupy key positions within offending networks, and therefore have the most influence on the amount of crime in that area,” says Berg.

Numerous criminological studies have found that a small fraction of offenders is responsible for a large amount of serious criminal violence. In other words, by focusing on high-risk offenders who perpetrate serious crimes, police departments can be more strategic and effective when enforcing laws and distributing resources.

Marion Police Chief Joe McHale says taking a look at the type, location, and frequency of certain crimes throughout the city could help the department be more thoughtful about how it assigns officers to beats, responds to crime, and, ultimately, serves the community it’s charged to protect.

“Marion is one of the fastest growing towns in Iowa, and the department will grow significantly in the next decade,” says McHale. “We want to be able to use data to inform our decisions so we can make our city as safe as possible for our residents.”

Though his department already tracks crime trends, McHale says integrating a criminologist into law enforcement strategy is the future of effective policing.

“Too often, the criminologists have been people who look at the process after the fact instead of being there with you throughout the process,” says McHale, who plans to eventually hire a criminal analyst. “This process will lay the groundwork for us to have a criminologist with us as incidents occur to help us course-correct in the interest of public safety. We’re really excited about working with the University of Iowa.”


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