What is Intelligence-Led Policing?

two female police officers

Intelligence-led policing (ILP) is a system of law enforcement that was first developed in the 1990s and grew in popularity in the U.S. after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.1,2 This policing model relies on advanced data analytics, community involvement, and collaboration with other law enforcement agencies and organizations. Through shared intelligence and firsthand observation, police can be proactive rather than reactive in assessing risk, which has been shown to be an effective method for preventing crime.2

This model of policing is about more than just collecting data. Computers can gather and organize vast amounts of information, but making it useful and actionable requires thoughtful analysis by highly skilled professionals.2 Successful interaction with residents in a diverse community necessitates specialized training as well as mutual respect and trust.2

Read on for an exploration of this relatively new approach to community protection.

What Is Intelligence-led Policing?

Intelligence-Led Policing employs the latest technology to collect and analyze data, providing police with valuable intelligence. This information can be used to deploy people and resources for efficient, effective law enforcement in communities where it is needed the most. At the same time, ILP involves a collaborative relationship with community members and other law enforcement agencies, as they pool observations and intelligence about criminal activity in the hope of stopping crimes before they occur.2

In the years following the 9/11 attacks, police departments of all sizes across the U.S. began creating ILP units, with two early examples growing in two of the country’s largest cities.

The New York Police Department (NYPD) Counterterrorism Unit3 protects the city from international and domestic terrorism by coordinating with various law enforcement agencies to gather, analyze and share intelligence.

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Counter Terrorism and Criminal Intelligence Bureau4 includes iWATCH, a community awareness program that educates the public about possible terrorist activities. In addition, the Joint Regional Intelligence Center (JRIC) was established in 2006 as a cooperative effort between federal, state, and local law enforcement and public safety agencies to centralize the intake, analysis, synthesis, and appropriate dissemination of terrorism-related threat intelligence for the greater Los Angeles region.5 Further, Los Angeles Regional Crime Stoppers came together “to prevent and reduce crime by forming a partnership among the community, law enforcement and the media to offer anonymity and cash rewards to anyone providing information leading to an arrest, making the community a safer place for all who live or work in the region.”6

Components of Intelligence-Led Policing

ILP involves a number of specific strategies, including these:

Community-Oriented Policing (COP)

To be effective, COP involves observing the environment, communicating with local residents, involving the citizenry in verifying vital information and tips, and mobilizing the entire community to handle local challenges. The focus is on a strong relationship between law enforcement and the community it serves.7

Collaborative Approach

A strong partnership and active collaboration between local, state and federal agencies, for the sharing of intelligence and resources, is a vital part of ILP. In its report Reducing Crime Through Intelligence-Led Policing, the U.S. Department of Justice said, “The reality in the modern world is that no agency can be effective alone.” This is especially important for counter-terrorism units, which utilize multiple law-enforcement resources, including the Regional Information Sharing Systems (RISS) program.8,9

Problem-Oriented Policing (POP)

This analytic method involves assessing each new problem to develop a tailored response. Law-enforcement agencies first identify and prioritize a crime problem. They then analyze the situation to find the most effective strategies, which could involve response or intervention. Finally, they perform an assessment so that they can adjust their practices for optimal success.10

Scanning, Analyzing, Responding and Assessing (SARA)

The SARA model is sometimes associated with the POP model. It is a standard procedure for collecting and using intelligence.

Policing of Hot Spots

Most of the country’s police departments use this practice. They focus on particular locations where crime is highest, and therefore predictable. Strategies may include the regular maintenance of law and order, increased searches and seizures of firearms, heightened drug enforcement and zero-tolerance policies.11

How Does ILP Compare to Alternative Policing Methods?

A traditional policing model is reactive, based on routine patrolling, responding to calls from the public and conducting follow-up investigations. ILP is a proactive model in which law-enforcement agencies and the community work to prevent criminal activity.12

Other models of policing, such as Problem-Oriented Policing and Community-Oriented Policing, are all components of ILP and each is a specific policing model on its own. Most of today’s police departments use a combination of these different models, based on their needs.2

One important concern about ILP, compared to reactive policing, is the need to protect civil rights. Intelligence-gathering abuses including racial profiling—”any police-initiated action that relies on the race, ethnicity, or national origin rather than the behavior of an individual or information that leads the police to a particular individual who has been identified as being, or having been, engaged in criminal activity”13—commit the dual harm of violating civil rights and breaking down the trust between local residents and law enforcement.

Does ILP Work?

In discussing the ILP practices and successes of several police departments across the country, the Department of Justice report cited above noted the following:6

Evans County, Georgia Sheriff’s Office

ILP practices including intelligence analysis, dissemination and enhanced communication yielded encouraging results. Relations with the community improved, leading to more tips and information. Seemingly separate crimes were found to be linked and unreported crimes were discovered. Officer safety improved, and directed effort based on threat information led to greater efficiency. ILP allowed the office to work smarter, making the practices as suitable for property crimes as they are for violence and terrorism.6

Milwaukee, Wisconsin Police Department

The Safe Street Initiative sought to reduce gang-related violent crime through methods such as continual assessment, enhanced intelligence-led policing and hot-spot enforcement. The department focused on the gathering, analysis and dissemination of information, and implemented a homicide-review initiative. Additional personnel were deployed to the city’s ‘hot spots’ to get weapons off the street. Officers were encouraged to speak regularly with pedestrians and shopkeepers. According to the report, “the success rate was phenomenal.” The city experienced a major reduction in crime, with 60 percent fewer murders of young African-American men, the greatest at-risk group in the U.S.6

Palm Beach County, Florida Sheriff’s Office

In setting out to address gangs as criminal enterprises, and reduce violent crimes and homicides, the office employed ILP methods. This effort combined multi-agency investigations, intelligence analysis and data sharing, community policing and a comprehensive suppression, enforcement and prosecution plan. The office used the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act to go after gangs directly. This enabled rigorous information collection and cooperation with the state attorney’s office. Successes include the dismantling of seven criminal gangs and a 50 percent decline in gang-related homicides over four years.6

What Makes ILP Unique?

ILP is unique in that it combines advanced data-gathering and computer analysis with highly skilled, experienced analysts and residential knowledge that can only come from living within the community. It is a high-tech approach that leverages advanced data collection and detailed data analytics. It is also a highly collaborative, hands-on policing method that relies on building mutual respect and trust between police officers and the public, as well as cooperation between law enforcement and intelligence agencies.6

The proven successes in preventing crime through ILP are due to its unique principles:

  • A strong commitment by those in command
  • Clarity of the problem and clearly defined goals
  • Effective intelligence
  • The sharing of information and active collaboration between all parties.
  • An ongoing assessment of tactics and results6

These important features form the backbone of this highly effective policing model, which places a strong emphasis on adaptability—the ability to respond to new, unforeseen challenges and rise to the occasion for more effective law enforcement.

Work for a More Just and Inclusive World.

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  1. Retrieved on August 31, 2020 from policechiefmagazine.org/changing-the-face-crime-prevention/
  2. Retrieved on August 31, 2020 from ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/bja/210681.pdf
  3. Retrieved on August 31, 2020 from nyc.gov/site/nypd/bureaus/investigative/counterterrorism.page
  4. Retrieved on August 31, 2020 from lapdonline.org/counter_terrorism_and_criminal_intelligence_bureau
  5. Retrieved on August 31, 2020 from jric.org/default.aspx/MenuItemID/285/MenuGroup/_Home.htm
  6. Retrieved on August 31, 2020 from lacrimestoppers.org/
  7. Retrieved on August 31, 2020 from iadlest.org/Portals/0/Files/Documents/DDACTS/Docs/Evidence/Intelligence-Led%20Policing.pdf
  8. Retrieved on August 31, 2020 from bja.ojp.gov/sites/g/files/xyckuh186/files/Publications/ReducingCrimeThroughILP.pdf
  9. Retrieved on August 31, 2020 from riss.net/about-us/
  10. Retrieved on August 31, 2020 from crimesolutions.ojp.gov/practicedetails?id=32&ID=32
  11. Retrieved on August 31, 2020 from crimesolutions.ojp.gov/practicedetails?id=8&ID=8
  12. Retrieved on August 31, 2020 from justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/cj-jp/yj-jj/discre/org/styles.html
  13. Retrieved on August 31, 2020 from ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/bja/184768.pdf
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He is an Associate Professor in the Evaluation and Measurement program within the College of Education, Health and Human Services at Kent State University. He is also the program coordinator for the online Master of Education degree in Research, Measurement, and Statistics.
Dr. Astrid N. Sambolín Morales is an Assistant Professor in Kent State Online’s 100% Online Master of Education degree in Cultural Foundations. She received her PhD in Educational Equity and Cultural Diversity from the University of Colorado Boulder and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research provides a more nuanced picture of the agency, resistance, and empowerment enacted by displaced Puerto Rican m(others) in the U.S., and her work was funded by several grants, including the University of Colorado Natural Hazards Center, the BUENO Center for Multicultural Education, the URBAN Research Network, and the NAEd Spencer Foundation.
Felesia McDonald, ’14 is an adjunct instructor in the iSchool, teaching courses in the 100% Online Master of Science in User Experience. McDonald is also the Sr Manager UX Design at Optum, a branch of UnitedHealth Group.