Emily Blackburn remembers what it was like when she first joined the Crime Analysis Unit of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department in its early days.
That was about 14 years ago, and before she could decipher any data about committed crimes, evidence, or potential suspects, she had to go through a complex process of extracting it from various sources, geocoding it and putting it on a map. to start looking for models.
“This process can take about half an hour,” says Blackburn, who earned a master’s degree in criminology and criminal justice from the University of Missouri-St. Louis in 2001. âIt doesn’t seem like a huge amount of time, but right now we can do 1-2-3-4 in a row and watch different iterations almost instantly. It really helps our ratings.
Blackburn, a civilian official who has been in charge of the Crime Analysis Unit since 2012, is always on the lookout for tools that can help commanders and detectives better recognize and understand crime trends or connect information that will help resolve their cases.
Last year, she led a team – consisting of an intelligence analyst, systems development specialist, programmer, and information security administrator – to create an intranet site using geospatial information system mapping software called ArcGIS Enterprise Portal, which was developed by Esri, a world leader in GIS, location intelligence, and mapping technology. The software allowed them to create administrative, tactical, investigative, and intelligence-driven dashboards to help users quickly access relevant information and view it easily.
âWe’re all used to Esri dashboards because almost all of the COVID dashboards released in the last year were Esri dashboards,â says Blackburn. âInstead of COVID case numbers by state, it’s a crime by police district or city neighborhood or that sort of thing. It’s the same principle and the same underlying software.
Dashboards helped guide decision making in day to day operations. Commanders share this information with officers at the start of their patrols, so they are ready to recognize and resolve any problems they encounter.
âWe’re at about maximum capacity to do more with less, but at least then we can focus our initiatives in the right place at the right time,â says Blackburn. âIt makes things a lot faster. We can do several projects at the same time.
Creating and implementing the dashboards was a big enough undertaking that Blackburn and his team won Esri’s Special Achievement in GIS Award. St. Louis was one of three recognized police services out of 109 in total
Blackburn never expected recognition. If she had sought him out, she probably would never have embarked on a career that would have seen her work behind the scenes in support of law enforcement.
âI’m happy to do this cheesy data thing on one side,â says Blackburn, âto help us move forward for other purposes and meet the changing needs of citizens and what they expect from the service. police.”
This story originally appeared in the Fall 2021 issue of UMSL Magazine. If you have an idea for an article for UMSL Magazine, send an email to [email protected]
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