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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Nashua police use data analysis to direct officers to ‘hot zones’

NASHUA – Nashua police are turning to statistics and analysis to put more cops where the crime is. Since April 1, police leaders have been focusing specialized patrols on a “hot zone” around the downtown that accounts for nearly one-quarter of all police activity in the city, including certain crimes, car accidents and motor vehicle infractions.

Although it may take as long as a year to generate enough new data to make comparisons worthwhile, the initial impact seems promising, Chief John Seusing said. ...

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NASHUA – Nashua police are turning to statistics and analysis to put more cops where the crime is. Since April 1, police leaders have been focusing specialized patrols on a “hot zone” around the downtown that accounts for nearly one-quarter of all police activity in the city, including certain crimes, car accidents and motor vehicle infractions.

Although it may take as long as a year to generate enough new data to make comparisons worthwhile, the initial impact seems promising, Chief John Seusing said.

Police refer to the area as the DDACTS zone, the acronym standing for Data-Driven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety. It’s based on the rates of certain crimes, including burglaries, robberies, thefts and arson, as well as motor vehicle stops, accidents and drunk-driving arrests from 2005-13.

The hot zone is pretty much where expected.

It’s a wide swath of the city on either side of Main Street stretching from Pine Street and Pine Street Extension in the west to Spruce Street and Harbor Avenue to the east, and from Water Street to the north to Allds Street in the south.

The city averaged 96,835 police responses annually from 2005-13 and more than 21,000 – about 23 percent – came from the recently established DDACTS zone, according to police data.

That includes a full 50 percent of the 142 average drunk-driving arrests and 36 percent of the average 44 robberies per year.

While police have known anecdotally that much of the crime and accidents happen in that area, the new focus on statistics allows them to look deeper into when putting extra police in the area will be most effective – as well as where in the city those officers should be pulled from and when they should return to their normal patrol sectors.

“It’s kind of a new way to do old-school police work,” Deputy Chief Christopher Peach said.

Two months into the project, motor vehicle stops have dropped 36 percent, Seusing said, admitting a two-month sample is likely not “statistically reliable.”

The department’s crime analyst, Dawn Reeby, spearheaded the project, Seusing said, and now travels monthly to police departments across the country to train them in DDACTS analysis.

“It’s really kind of a proactive measure,” Seusing said. “It’s just as much traffic safety as it is crime prevention. There’s two prongs to it all, and they’re definitely equal. We’re hoping we’ll see some actual positive results from this.”

Joseph G. Cote can be reached at 594-6415 or jcote@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Cote on Twitter (@Telegraph_JoeC).