Automated Vehicle Locator Technology in Policing

The finding of the Police Foundation Kansas City Preventive Patrol Experiment (KCPPE) (Kelling, Pate, Dieckman, & Brown, 1974) that routine patrol did not affect crime has had ramifications on policing that continue today.

Currently, police agencies have little ability to assess the effectiveness of their deployment strategies in relationship to their goals.  Developments in technology, such as the Automated Vehicle Locator (AVL) – a global positioning device that can be placed in a vehicle for monitoring its location across real time/space – promise to provide an invaluable tool to inform Compstat and other directed patrol strategies (e.g., hot spots policing) in police agencies through measurement of police presence at all places and at all times.

Although GIS are in use in 63 percent of larger police agencies, we still know little about where the police actually are when not responding to calls for service.  Do the police simply “chase crime” across a city, or does concentrated police presence have long term crime prevention benefits with little displacement of crime? Is there a “diffusion of crime control benefits” when police presence is high at certain locations?

Our study examined the reliability and utility of the use of AVL technology to quantify police presence.  If the data are reliable, the study would next examine the impact of police presence on crime in specific geographic areas in Dallas, Texas and, more important, test whether AVL can be an effective tool for deploying officers. The Dallas Police Department has AVL technology in almost all of its patrol vehicles and has implemented a Compstat program that focuses on directing patrol to specific problem areas.

The results of our study would provide police agencies with the capacity for using AVL technology to assess and adapt deployment patterns.  This approach would advance information-led policing nationwide by providing a technology-based strategy for crime prevention and reduction.