Regional Problem Solving Using NIBRS: An Analysis of the Distribution of Heroin in Springfield, Massachusetts

Daniel B. Bibel, Massachusetts State Police
Donald Faggiani, Police Executive Research Forum

Law enforcement's ability to monitor "hot spots" of crime and anticipate changes in patterns of offending provides an important opportunity to engage in proactive, prevention strategies that target scarce resources where they may be needed the most. Crime mapping and other analysis techniques that help identify such crime patterns over time and location also support problem-oiented policing efforts. The same advantages that come from mapping crime within one jurisdiction also apply to mapping across regions covering multiple jurisdictions. Over the past decade, research has shown that offenders have become more mobile, making identification and arrest more difficult. As offending patterns have changed, it has become increasingly important for law enforcement to step beyond their boundaries and work in collaboration with neighboring agencies through multi-jurisdiction efforts. As we have seen from the crack-cocaine epidemic, certain patterns of offending are more prone to rapid expansion. While a locality may be able to monitor the growth within its own boundaries, understanding the regional implications can help thwart a rapid expansion across jurisdictions. Unfortunately, the practice of multi-jurisdictional crime mapping has encountered numerous obstacles. Information sharing between law enforcement jurisdictions is often limited. This paper demonstrates the use of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' enhancement to the FBI's standardized Incident-Based Reporting system for overcoming several multi-jurisdictional data sharing obstacles. Heroin sale and distribution activity in the capitol of Massachusetts and the communities immediately adjacent are examined. The results demonstrate that the addition of address information to the standard NIBRS data structure can have significant benefits for regional problem solving efforts.

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Updated 05/20/2006