Greenwood headed toward data-driven crime approach

In the coming year, a police analyst will look at nearly two decades’ worth of data and help investigators identify where a crime might take place and look for trends.

Residents could eventually be able to go online and look at maps that show where crimes are being reported.

Greenwood police are taking steps towards data-driven policing, which uses records the department has kept since 1998 to help supervisors direct how and where officers spend their time and help investigators solve crimes.

Call it smart policing.

To hire the analyst, the city is phasing out the old-fashioned watch commander position. When the police department was built in the 1990s, the watch commander was hired to help residents who would come to the police department and need fingerprints or to file a non-emergency report.

Those services will still be available, but the current watch commander, Joseph Teske, has worked as a military analyst and is ready to dig into Greenwood data.

The shift is in line with the city’s focus on compiling all types of government data — from finances to applying for building projects and tracking their tax dollars — and putting it online.

The city announced late last year that it was joining Indianapolis, Zionsville and Fishers in a project to compile data for residents online.

Indianapolis officials have said they would focus on putting information about police runs online, and Greenwood police Chief John Laut said the city is focusing on data-driven policing.

Greenwood’s record systems date to 1998 and include information on people who filed or are listed in police reports, crimes, suspects, vehicles and weapons.

“It gives the officers and the investigators tools,” Laut said. “Instead of saying ‘we think.'”

For example, officers could be directed on specifically what or where to look or how to focus their patrols based on investigations and what is happening, Laut said.

One goal is for police departments to be able to easily share this information, helping solve crimes.

The crime analysis will study the crimes taking place and suspects, help police identify where crime may take place and develop crime mapping. That could be put online for residents to look at in 2017, Laut said.

Author photo
Michele Holtkamp is editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at or 317-736-2774.