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New York City Probation Department Operates More Effectively with ESRI GIS

November 11, 2008
New York City Department of Probation now deploys ESRI's geographic information system software to more effectively manage caseloads, track high-risk probationers, and share information with other law enforcement divisions.

Redlands, California-New York City Department of Probation (NYCDOP) now deploys ESRI's geographic information system (GIS) software to more effectively manage caseloads, track high-risk probationers, and share information with other law enforcement divisions. GIS provides data to identify probation officer caseloads by precinct, ZIP Code, and borough; maps probationers, rearrests, and new crime locations to help allocate resources; and allows probationer data to be visualized to aid in both investigation and apprehension of violators.

"We're better prepared to keep crime down and understand probation issues using GIS," says Alphonzo Albright, chief information officer, New York City Department of Probation. "Probation departments are underfunded yet still responsible for preserving public safety. The reengineering of information technology at our department has been a significant factor in smart planning. GIS has played a role here. Geocoding caseloads and providing strategic maps help in this process."

With 35 staff members, including consultants, NYCDOP's IT group is accountable for the management of office automation tasks. This includes desktop software and support, network implementation, application development, and information management. The department has numerous information needs. It serves more than 60,000 adult probationers and 25,000 juveniles each year. Annually, it provides 40,000 Pre-Sentence Investigations (PSI) for the Supreme and Criminal courts as well as 7,000 Investigations and Recommendations (I&R) reports for the Family Court.

GIS provides a rich, intuitive, map-based interface to identify probation officer caseloads by precinct, ZIP Code, and borough. The system, using ESRI ArcGIS Desktop (ArcInfo) software, pulls data from the department's Reusable Case Management System (RCMS) crime database, geocodes it, and provides query and analysis capability. The maps and data generated by Albright and his staff are supplied to probation officers either in paper format or digitally via e-mail.

GIS maps can show probationer locations as well as the locations of probationer rearrests. A visual representation of neighborhoods where these new crimes are taking place can help in planning where to place additional resources to prevent probation violations, make arrests when necessary, and deter crime.

Probation officers can visualize caseloads geographically to quickly identify high-risk probationers that require special attention. Mapped data can also help with probationer compliance issues. A probation officer can see where a probationer resides in relationship to schools, liquor stores, gun stores, known drug trafficking areas, other probationers, and a host of other criteria.

For someone who has violated terms of probation, data such as last known residence, place of employment, addresses of known family members and associates, and the location of previous arrests can be visualized and overlaid to aid in both investigation and apprehension.

For probation managers, visualized data can help determine how to assign cases to field officers so they have a smaller geographic range to cover. This can enable probation officers to minimize driving time and maximize contacts with the people in their caseloads.

Of equal importance, mapping is used for monthly Statistical Tracking Analysis and Reporting System (STARS) meetings, where probation managers come together to go over the previous month's activities and plan future actions. Maps help accurately render data in an intuitive format that can be understood by everyone involved in the meeting.

The second phase in the use of ArcGIS by NYCDOP will include significant enhancements in the types of analysis that will be performed and the method for accessing the system.