In 1993, the Chicago Police Department (CPD) began implementing the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS), a community policing initiative in which law enforcement officials and community members of crime-ridden areas worked together to solve common problems in a non-adversarial fashion. While significant progress was made, the Chicago Police Department realized that to truly tackle crime in a progressive manner, they were going to have to enhance their technological capabilities.
Partnering with the Oracle Corporation, the CPD worked to create a cutting-edge data collection system, now known as Citizen and Law Enforcement Analysis and Reporting (CLEAR). Rolled out in 2002, after a $40 million development process, the CLEAR initiative is centered around a state-of-the-art data warehouse which contains approximately 10 million crime reports, offender records, mug shots, and other information. The system allows officers to submit queries and then organizes the requested data into accessible text, chart, and map formats.
CLEAR is targeted to affect three major aspects of law enforcement: criminal justice integration, police management, and community partnerships. Components of the program include the Automated Arrest Application, which processes arrests electronically; Mobile Identification Devices, which collect and transmit photographs and fingerprints of arrestees in the field; Portable Data Terminals, which facilitate high-speed wireless access to CLEAR records; and the Personnel Performance System, which helps regulate administrative functions including rewards, complaints against officers, and benefits.
Of course, the real test of any law enforcement innovation, no matter how sophisticated it may seem, is its effect on crime rates on the street. While other major cities have seen an increase in violent and property crimes in the past few years; in Chicago, average crime rates have decreased by over six percent in the first four years of the program. Streamlining the reporting burden on police officers has resulted in significant time and labor savings; tasks that previously took 1.2 officers to complete in a given amount of time now take only 1 officer to process.
CLEAR's success has already spread outside the Chicago area. 388 local police agencies in Illinois, neighboring agencies in Wisconsin and Indiana, and several federal groups have adopted the program's strategies in their own jurisdictions. (The U.S. Justice Department has highlighted CLEAR as a model for other law enforcement groups.) The program has also served as the foundation for I-CLEAR, an integrated statewide criminal justice information system now being developed by the Chicago Police Department and the Illinois State Police, which features interactive maps, community crime alerts, wanted person bulletins, and more.