PERF spoke with police employees from three departments – the Durham, NC Police Department; the Seattle Police Department; and the NYPD – who work on crime analysis and strategic analysis. They discussed how COVID has changed their work, what data they’re collecting and analyzing to support their agency’s response to the pandemic, and crime trends they’ve tracked this year.



Jason Schiess, Analytical Services Manager

We had an additional challenge to deal with at the beginning of COVID in March, when we suffered a major malware attack to all our city and county systems. Officers either had to remember how to write reports on paper, or learn how to write reports on paper if they had never done so. That definitely impacted our operations for quite a few weeks.

So during the early days of COVID, we were just trying to do the business of crime analysis and get back to an operational level, because of COVID impacts and the malware attack.

Our crime analysis unit mostly works remotely. Each staff member works one out of five days in the office. They had to learn how to use tools like Teams and Zoom to interact with each other and with investigators.  I’m very proud of their efforts in that regard.

We haven’t done much in the way of tracking officers who have had to quarantine. The city has relied on human resources, risk management, and the health department to do that.

But we have been involved in tracking the changing crime trends. In the first few months of COVID and leading into the summer, we had some of the most volatile, up-and-down periods of crime that I’ve seen. Our biggest challenge the entire year has been violent crime. Our non-domestic, gun-related aggravated assault cases are up 42% this year, so we’ve had a significant increase in both shootings and gunshot wounds.

We’re certainly seeing impacts in burglaries, break-ins to motor vehicles, and shoplifting. We’re trying to compare what’s happening in Durham to other places.

We’re also seeing how the changes in crime trends are impacting workload. We’ve done a lot of work in our CAD system to measure workload impacts. We’re not only measuring what types of calls we’re getting and when we’re getting them, but also how that has impacted our response time. We’re measuring how we’ve started a more robust telephone response unit, to take as many reports as we can over the phone, and keep officers from having personal contact with individuals unless absolutely necessary.



Loren Atherley, Director of Performance Analytics & Research and Senior Research Scientist

In Seattle we have both an internal analytics and an external crime analysis arm. I oversee internal analytics and strategic analysis related to human and system performance.

In early March, as we were starting to get a sense of the impact of the pandemic, we sent our entire team home. Given our jobs, that wasn’t a huge deal.  The city chose to implement Teams at that time, which was convenient.

Our team is a hybrid team between the city’s IT department, which provides developers and data architects, and our side, which is business analysts and research scientists. It actually was a great opportunity for us to come together more efficiently electronically.

As the department’s command staff oriented itself to COVID, they needed some tools to get a sense of trends in response times and any staffing issues related to the pandemic. The operations center stood up an incident action plan and operated that for a couple months.  We were getting a sense for where operations were beginning to suffer as employees were reporting exposures. And we were getting a sense for where those exposures were occurring, and whether we might have an increase in employee exposures as it relates to uncontrolled community spread.

We started getting questions from command staff about how many people were out sick, how many exposures we were seeing, or even whether we could use CAD events in the field where PPE was being used as a proxy measurement for potential exposure.

The city of Seattle has a partnership with the University of Washington to handle emergency medical response through Seattle Fire. We started working through that collaboration to reach out to the University of Washington’s virology department and their health metrics lab, which has been doing a lot of the forecasting. We were able to use a solution they have, called REDCap, to track exposures for all our employees and monitor them through the isolation, quarantine, and testing phases. That meant onboarding a new data source.

As we moved into May, we were preparing for the long-term, sustainment phase of monitoring what the COVID-19 pandemic was doing. We started looking at network analysis and ways we could automate contact tracing by looking at exposures and first- and second-degree relationships to those exposures, so that we would know which officers had been on common calls with employees who were reporting exposures or positive tests.

Then we had George Floyd and a significant period time when the city council has been engaged in the discussion of reimagining policing. If we hadn’t gotten these tools automated and operating to monitor the environment, I think we would have had a difficult time responding to the volume of requests coming from city council, looking at staffing and budget.

Mark Bridge, Data-Driven Program Lead, Seattle Police Dept.

2020 has been unique from a crime analysis standpoint. When we started off in March with people working from home, there was a lot of interest around how things were changing. I think it started with domestic violence. People were really concerned about everybody being cooped up, so we started keeping an eye on that. We were proactive in the beginning, trying to reach out to some of our repeat addresses to send out our follow-up resources and get ahead of that.

With schools being closed, we saw some reduction in reporting of child abuse cases. People were concerned that the schools were the avenue by which these issues were identified. So there were several concerns, and we started tracking those issues pretty quickly.

We had a shift when the protests occurred and there was a focus on the police department and cutting the budget. It changed a lot of the work my folks do to answering inquiries about the police workload, how much time we spend on calls, how much of it could be criminal vs. non-criminal, and what other city resources could potentially handle calls. A lot of our workload revolved around responding to questions about the department’s work.

On top of that, a couple months ago we started having an uptick in the number of people leaving the department, and the department was trying to provide relief to some of the people out in the street working long hours. So there were a lot of questions about staffing and response times. Historically we have had sworn detectives who do crime analysis while embedded in the precincts, and my team, the data driven policing team, is a group of civilian experts who work on a strategic front and supplement a lot of the crime analysis. The sworn detective positions in crime analysis were eliminated and sent back to patrol.

So we’re trying to answer all these questions in the current political climate with ad-hoc reports on the fly, fill in gaps left by people who are now out on the street, manage reductions in staffing, pay attention to crime trends, and do our Compstat from home. There have been a lot of changes and challenges for us this year. I’m very proud of the team, and I think everyone has risen to the occasion, but it’s been a wild year.



Deputy Chief John Cappelmann, right, with his brother Joseph Cappelmann

Deputy Chief John Cappelmann, Office of Management Analysis and Planning

There was one point in April when we had 23.8% of our department out sick or out with reasonable accommodations. That obviously led to staffing and resource issues. My office does resource analysis, policy research, and planning. So we had to really look at where we could send resources from administrative and support units back into the field.

We put together a COVID task force that was sent out citywide to backfill precincts where staffing was low. My office worked closely with the medical division and the rest of the department to start telework for civilians working from home through Teams and Zoom. We stood up a robust contact tracing program through the medical division. We also looked at what 9-1-1 or 3-1-1 calls we could offload. We no longer respond to vehicle collisions where there’s only property damage. That’s a big step for us, and accounts for almost 200,000 of our 6 million calls a year.

My office put together a comprehensive daily brief for the police commissioner. We looked at the data on who was sick, where they were working, who was hospitalized, our COVID positive rates, who was coming back to work, and COVID testing. Year to date, we’ve had 6,629 people test positive. 46 members of service have died, including Chief William Morris, who was a bureau chief.

We’re looking at the number of uniformed officers sick, the number of civilians sick, where people were, and who they were in contact with. For example, right now we have almost 30 people who work in headquarters and are COVID-positive.

My office also looks at the number of people reporting sick compared to the previous year. We look at hospitalization rates in the general public. We look at COVID-related 3-1-1 calls, such as mass gatherings or businesses not following public health orders.

NYPD Inspector John Hall

We had big logistical challenges at the outset of COVID with giving our crime analysis units the ability to work from home. We have about 70 civilian crime analysts and data scientists, and about 150 uniformed personnel in the precincts dedicated to the crime analysis function. We allowed our civilians to work from home, but we had to get them into our agency VPN, and in some cases we had to get them computers to be able to do that. That was a pretty big hurdle.

Once they got home, we were able to just resume operations, since a lot of the analysis is computer-based anyway. We didn’t have any major challenges with analyzing crime while a lot of our staff was working remotely.

The uniformed personnel in my office also handle Compstat. We were watching crime trends, and we saw our commercial burglaries spike. At the same time we saw our residential burglaries plummet. Violence stayed the same, which was something we didn’t anticipate, but then it escalated after the George Floyd incident.

We paid attention to domestic violence. From what we could see, it went down, which made us a little concerned because we knew that people were stuck in their homes, so it might be reporting that was down. We have our own domestic violence unit, so we communicated that to them and they tried to formulate some kind of outreach to assess what was actually happening. Early on, people were using COVID as a wedge in low-level domestic disputes, such as child care issues.

We also monitored a lot of the COVID-specific issues. Hate crimes was a big one early on.

There were also some things we didn’t anticipate, but noticed when we scanned the field. One was people making complaints about violations of our social distancing rules on top of what would normally just be a quality-of-life complaint. So people are using COVID rules to try to push us to take action.  We’ve seen a 50% increase in 3-1-1 calls for quality-of-life issues throughout this entire time.

We’ve seen some COVID-related scams, though that wasn’t as big as we thought it was going to be.

Obviously violence concerns us the most. We are up 100% in shooting victims for the year, and over 30% in murder. We haven’t noticed a significant change in the age of people involved, but we have seen an increase in the number of people involved in the violence who have criminal justice statuses, like parole or probation.


The PERF Daily COVID-19 Report is part of the Critical Issues in Policing project, supported by the Motorola Solutions Foundation.


PERF also is grateful to the Howard G. Buffett Foundation for supporting PERF’s COVID-19 work.