Strategic Decision Support Centers (SDSCs)

In 2016, Chicago experienced 769 homicides, nearly a 60% increase from 2015. As one response to this uptick in violence, the Chicago Police Department built Strategic Decision Support Centers (SDSCs) in the 007th (Englewood) and 011th (Garfield Park) districts that bring together police officers and analysts to integrate crime intelligence, data analytics, and technology as well as identify new management strategies to reduce the police footprint while also reducing crime. The innovative approach to gun violence prevention is designed to help police commanders devote their resources to the right place at the right time and be more responsive to communities’ needs.

In 2017, Chicago experienced 764 fewer shooting incidents (22% reduction) relative to 2016. In District 007, historically one of the most violent districts in the city, these impressive gains are promising both compared to 2016 and historically, with the district experiencing the second lowest level of shootings since CPD began storing this data electronically. The SDSC in that district was one of a number of efforts that contribute to these successes, which are critical to restoring public confidence in law enforcement. 

While reducing gun violence in our most violent districts is critical to keeping residents safe and to helping our city thrive, it is critical to ensure that innovations also do not end up doing harms that outweigh their benefits. The Chicago Police Department is partnering with the University of Chicago Crime Lab to better understand the effect of the SDSCs on crime and the community. Through the development of localized crime reduction strategies, tailored to meet the needs of the community, the SDSCs hold promise for leveraging the data, technology, and human intelligence available to CPD to make real progress on public safety and to promote police-community trust.

As a part of the SDSC strategy, CPD began embedding civilian analysts in CPD districts to inform district strategy. Crime Lab analysts were the first analysts to play this role, filling an essential gap in the SDSC strategy while CPD hired and trained their own analysts to fill those roles. Prior to the collaboration between the Crime Lab and CPD on the SDSC project, the department employed no civilian crime analysts. CPD conducted little data analysis in-house, and the analysis that was done was performed by police officers with little to no formal training in analytics or data science. Over the last three years, however, CPD has hired 30 civilian data analysts to work in each of the SDSCs and provide daily support for district commanders.

In addition to hiring a team of SDSC analysts, the department has engaged about a dozen civilians to staff the Strategic Data Analytics Division (SDAD), which performs high-level crime analysis for the headquarters office. Now that CPD is able to staff the SDSCs with their own analysts, the Crime Lab is focusing our efforts on ensuring the long-term sustainability of the model and, in January 2020, we moved our analysts to CPD headquarters in order to transfer the knowledge we have accumulated since the beginning of the project to the SDAD.