RESEARCH & RESOURCES

Crime Data Analysis Helps Swedish Police

Using analytic software to greatly accelerate the process, Swedish police analyzed years of crime reports and found links that helped them arrest a serial shooting suspect who was terrorizing the area.

By analyzing years of crime report data using analytic software, Swedish police identified a serial shooting suspect in 2010 and made an arrest. The suspect had terrorized Sweden's third largest city, Malmö, for over a year. According to Associated Press reports, the lone gunman shot at victims who were standing at bus stops, sitting in their cars, and working out at a gym. One person died and several others were wounded in the attacks, which targeted immigrants.

To solve the case, the police department analyzed 10 years of files with two million police crime reports containing two billion rows of data, according to Malmö police analyst Berth Simonsson. The analytic software used, QlikView, saved months or even years of work culling through reports by hand, Simonsson estimates.

QlikView is a BI tool suite from QlikTech, an international company originally founded in Sweden and now headquartered in Pennsylvania. The software is designed for business users; its interface focuses on flexibility in navigation, ease of use, and quick response times. The product uses in-memory database technology, among other things -- that is, it reduces response time on queries by pre-loading data into memory.

The Malmö police department is a long-time customer of QlikView products -- the Skåne (the term refers to southern Sweden) regional police department currently has created approximately 100 QlikView applications and rolled them out over the past three years. In 2001, the department implemented an initial installation of QlikView and began using it for reports, scheduling, finances, and economics for employers. Before QlikView, according to Simonsson, it wasn't possible to combine information from several databases into a single view, and to analyze data using a single business intelligence and data analysis application. Without in-memory technology, other programs Simonsson considered needed specific servers to build cubes using OLAP technology.

The Skåne police department decided that QlikView was a good fit over other BI products, Simonsson said, because it appeared to be easy to implement and would deliver relatively sophisticated BI insights to a range of users within the police department -- most of whom are not analysts or IT experts. Simonsson is part of a team of just two that supports 3,500 people in the police force, including about 50 analysts, all of whom currently use QlikView.

The QlikView program, which the department runs in the cloud (it can also be run locally), uses a Web browser to access SQL databases in the Malmö implementation. QlikView has enabled police to combine information from several databases, which is important to the department, Simonsson says. Its ease of use has also been proven. "Now, when we use QlikView and create new applications with it," he says, "we don't need expert help because it's so easy."

Analysis in Under a Minute

For making an arrest in the shooting case, which delved into many years of stored crime reports, it took three hours to upload historical data and configure interactive reports. Once the data was uploaded and reports were configured, QlikView looked through 10 years of crime reports, consisting of roughly two million reports with some two billion rows of data, in less than a minute. Simonsson estimates that saved months and probably years of work sorting through the reports by hand, looking for clues that could tie back to the shooting case.

The reports were searched for specific data items such as blood type and car model. He estimated that without the software, it would have taken three people three months to read through just one year's worth of reports to find the sorts of answers that the QlikView software displayed immediately. "QlikView has saved us the analysis time that would have taken one police officer some 43 years [to sort through all 10 years of reports]," he says, "and did so with three hours of set up time and 30 minutes of analysis." Also, QlikView's ease of use in analyzing multiple data streams from other sources allowed police to add in and cross-reference information submitted by citizens from a tip line.

QlikTech's technology allows a user to connect to any database, then perform the analysis on his or her own computer, including a QlikTech technology called associative search. When a user makes a selection to conduct a search in QlikView, all fields are instantly filtered based on that selection, highlighting related data and graying out non-related data.

In general, Simonsson says, it takes just a few hours to create new QlikView applications for the department. In fact, he estimates a three-hour time-to-value window, compared to the months or quarters often associated with getting other enterprise software up and running. The department creates its own dashboards to access various applications, all of which look the same in QlikView. Users can access and view the QlikView applications through a browser.

QlikView continues to be a powerful investigative tool in the police force arsenal. A small clue in a case, such as a partial suspect description or car model, can be run against thousands of crime reports for a match.

Additional potential uses for the product, Simonsson says, include predictive analytics, such as using historical crime data to predict the likelihood of crime occurring at a particular area at a particular time. In that case, Simonsson says, "QlikView will be at the center of the data analytics, to crunch all the reports to get a sense of predicting crime."

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