Guest Column: Intelligence Led Policing

DAVID B. SHOARGuest Column: Intelligence Led Policing

David B. Shoar
St. Johns County, Florida

Last month, I wrote about crime prevention; and how important citizen involvement can be in helping to keep our neighborhoods safe.

This month I want to share more about how our office is initiating innovative procedures to use our deputies and other resources more effectively to prevent crime and become an even more proactive law enforcement agency.

The process is called “intelligence led policing”. It is collecting information from many sources to identify and understand where criminal activity or civil disobedience is most likely to occur and in what period, and then making command decisions to intervene and eradicate such situations before any harm can happen. It is very much like the business model of risk assessment and risk management.

Intelligence led policing originated in the United Kingdom and was brought to the United States by Jerry Radcliffe, Professor and Chair of the Department of Criminal Justice at Temple University in Philadelphia where he is also Director of the Center of Security and Crime Science. Dr. Radcliffe sites a simple scenario to help explain the concept. Deputies are standing by a river and bodies are floating down every day. Every day the officers collect the bodies and call in the crime scene technicians. Following the ILP model, they should be going upstream to see who is throwing the bodies in the river. This is a very simple example of Intelligence Led Policing but is conceptually right.

Rather than just investigating crimes, after they happen, now we have a system to gather information and we have the tools to analyze what we have to prevent crimes from happening.

By the very nature of this initiative, I cannot share a great deal of specific information but wish to give you a thumbnail overview. The key to ILP is collecting information that can be analyzed in ways that can lead to putting the best resources in the right place at the right time to prevent a crime or threat to public safety. This is nothing new. When I was a rookie many years ago, we were putting pushpins on a map to identify where crimes had occurred and were able to identify problem areas where our police presence should be increased.

Now new technology allows us to gather information from many sources in a central location and use software programs and specially trained personnel to determine areas for intervention. This is incorporated into our continuous process of planning to reflect community problems and issues. Information sharing between our various divisions, St. Augustine and St. Augustine Beach police, other regional law enforcement and public safety agencies, the FBI and Homeland Security is now policy — rather than an informal practice.

Here is another example of how the system can work. A couple of convenience store robberies are reported to our office and thoroughly investigated. The ILP unit also has data about similar crimes in Clay and Flagler Counties as well as in St. Augustine Beach. If the analysts can determine a predictable pattern, the next time a robbery is likely to occur, cops can be waiting to catch the perpetrator red handed.

The intelligence we use is gathered from many sources — including you, our citizens. We need you to report suspicious activity even if you choose to remain anonymous. It may be just the information we need as a piece of the puzzle that will identify and prevent a more serious crime.

Our new initiative also has built in safeguards to protect privacy. Intelligence in the context of law enforcement has less to do with the methods of information collection and more to do about how the information is used. The information collected can only become intelligence when it is combined with data from other sources and historical models and then is analyzed by experienced professionals. When properly applied in this way the concept should raise no concern related to civil liberties.

I thank you for taking the time to read my column and if you have any questions or concerns about St. Johns County law enforcement, please email me at

Photo credits: © 2011 Historic City News staff photographer

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