It all begins with a digital map of the city, created with the help of data from the Erie Crime Analysis Center, a state-funded center that provides data and intelligence to the Buffalo Police Department.
First, the city is divided up into a grid of about 4,700 500-foot-by-500-foot squares. That’s about the size of a small city block, in many cases smaller than a block.
Then, they overlay all of the shootings on the map – red for shootings with injuries or deaths and blue for “shots fired.”
Looking at data over the previous 90 days, the police can pinpoint “micro hot spots.”
Once a week, the data is shared and discussed at intelligence briefings, which are held on a rotating basis at the department’s five police districts. Patrol officers are part of those meetings.
“Who knows more about what’s going on in a neighborhood than the unformed officers patrolling them?” Gramaglia said.
They discuss which spots to target and who will go where and when. The aim is to have officers going to hot spots throughout the day, spending 10 to 15 minutes at each location. The assignments are called “directed patrols.”
Patrol officers are expected to do directed patrols in between answering 911 calls. Other officers who are on special details, such as those specifically aimed at reducing gun violence, spend their shifts going on one directed patrol to the next. The patrols are largely funded through grants from the state Department of Criminal Justice Services.
The officers all have access to the grid and the data on each of the hot spots on their cell phones, so they can have a detailed understanding of the history of the location they’re patrolling.