How NYC’s Real Time Crime Center Assembles Its Vast Databases


The New York Times profiles the New York Police Department’s technological information hub, its Real Time Crime Center. Aside from arrest data and a tattoo database, the five-year-old center breaks down information in all sorts of ways. There is a database for body marks, like birthmarks and scars. It keeps track of teeth, noting missing ones and gold ones. It keeps track of the way people walk: if there is a limp, it notes its severity. It has a so-called blotchy database, of skin conditions.

The databases are fed partly by arrest reports; officers are instructed to take detailed notes and enter them into a computer program that moves the information to a large server. The center, on the eighth floor of Police Headquarters, resembles a Las Vegas sports book: a 500-square-foot screen is the focal point, displaying relevant information; the rest of the room is filled with analysts sitting at smaller monitors. Established by Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, the center’s databases pull from 911 calls, arrests, complaints filed by victims, reports on accidents. and moving violations. Detectives at the center mine these databases for nuggets of information that they send to officers on the street.

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