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Albany Police Smart Policing Project

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $500,000)

Though Albany is a fairly small city, it has big-city violence, which is driven primarily by, and concentrated disproportionately in, the social networks of gangs and other violent groups. The youth/young adults driving the violence rely on third-party applications and social media platforms to communicate, coordinate group actions, and even sell/acquire weapons, and tend not to communicate through traditional phone calls or SMS texts. Consequently, conducting investigations into their social media accounts is time consuming and inefficient. Innovative technology solutions would help stretch limited resources in identifying networks of individuals tied to gun violence. With SPI support, the Albany Police Department (APD) proposes to employ a data-driven, technology-focused, advanced analytic solution – VoyagerAnalytics – to enhance its historical investigations as well as to expeditiously collect and process crime data when a shooting or homicide occurs. The project will not only expand the capacity of APD to conduct criminal investigations, it will also build on and enhance current violence reduction efforts that include enforcement, intervention, and prevention, such as the Albany Violence Elimination Plan (AVEP), which encompasses a continuum of strategies to reduce gun and other violent crimes.

APD’s violence reduction strategies rest on a focus on the most violent members of violent groups; such strategically focused policing is essential in building and maintaining public trust and confidence. The use of VoyagerAnalytics will enable APD detectives to efficiently access relevant open-source social media accounts, collect and preserve key pieces of evidence, and most importantly, provide an immediate and potentially life-saving response. Using this new advance analytical tool will have the most direct and noticeable impacts on investigations, it will also allow APD to more effectively undergird it violence reduction strategies by enabling us to more comprehensively and accurately identify those who are committing acts of gun violence and their associates. 
The SPI research partner, The Finn Institute, will conduct a process and outcome evaluation. The process evaluation will describe the purposes to which the new technology software has been put, its perceived usefulness, the features and functions that detectives regard as noteworthy or particularly helpful, limitations, and any obstacles that they encountered. Pre- and post-project outcomes will be statistically compared, focusing on homicides and nonfatal shootings, with the expectations that post-project cases will be more likely to be cleared by arrest, cleared in a shorter time period, and based on investigations of a larger number of suspects or persons of interest.

Date Created: December 16, 2021