Public Sector Future Podcast: Episode 14 | Real Time Crime Center

Episode 14 guest speaker, Joseph Courtesis

Real Time Crime Center

with Joseph Courtesis

Inspector Joseph Courtesis spent 27 years of serving with the New York Police Department (NYPD). Courtesis was former Commander of the 105th and 106th Precincts, Central Investigations Division, and the NYPD’s Real Time Crime Center. We explore how better use of data delivered outcomes for NYPD.

Episode 14: Real Time Crime Center

Public Sector Future

Episode summary

In this episode we speak with Joseph Courtesis, former Inspector of the New York City Police Department (NYPD) who retired in 2020 after 27 years of service. Courtesis discusses his experience leading the NYPD’s Real Time Crime Center, what this is, and how this has supported communities in New York. He shares lessons for other public sector organizations.

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New York City Police Department’s Real Time Crime Center

Joseph Courtesis, retired New York City Police Department Inspector, shared that NYPD’s Real Time Crime Center was the first of its kind.

“We launched our Real Time Crime Center in 2005, but the problem we were trying to solve was leveraging data,” Courtesis said.

Courtesis discusses his experience leading the Real Time Crime Center, how it evolved over time, and how this has supported communities in New York.

Finding a way to leverage data efficiently

Prior to the Real Time Crime Center, the NYPD was taking in data from multiple different data sources. Courtesis shared that back in 2004, if he needed to run a background check on someone, he would have to look through 35 different databases to find all potential information. The NYPD needed a solution to compile and access data from one place.

The NYPD compiled all their own data into the Real Time Crime Center, including summons, police accident reports, complaint reports, arrest reports, and more.

“Originally, the way it started off was we hired a company to come in and take all of that data and put it into one pool that we called our Crime Data Warehouse. Then, we built a search engine above that that allowed us to do some very complex queries above that data and leverage it that way,” Courtesis explained.

Courtesies’ team within the Real-Time Crime Center was responsible for providing the technology and the support to allow police officers across New York to access and use that data more efficiently to better support their communities and to reach decisions more quickly.

“We were trying to provide situational awareness to responding officers when they were responding to a major incident,” Courtesis shared.

“We wanted to let them know what was the history of that location, the 911 history, the 311 history,” Courtesis continued, explaining they wanted officers to have more information on the situations before entering.

Evolution of the Real Time Crime Center

As the unit evolved, in addition to using NYPD reports, the Real Time Crime Center started pulling in public databases.

What originally was designed to get better information to officers via their pagers from a team of analysts and top-end investigators in the Real Time Crime Center, is now scaled out to 35,000 sworn officers through smart phones.

“So now, when they’re responding to a job, they don’t need to call the Real-Time Crime Center,” Courtesis explained. “They have that information right on their cell phone.”

Protecting sensitive data

The original concerns and reason for initial centralized access to Real Time Crime Center data was because some of the data came from sensitive data sources.

NYPD needed to have standards set and ensure the queries being done were for legitimate law enforcement reasons.

“Once we were able to scale it, we were able to allow the officers on a permission-based ability to access systems that are appropriate for their particular response,” Courtesis shared.

Officers still must come to the Real Time Crime Center for information from particularly sensitive databases.

Advice for creating a data storage and search system

Courtesis shared he had executives from other police agencies around the country and world visit to get a tour of the Real Time Crime Center and its capabilities, integration, technology, and successes.

From a wider perspective, talking about the ability to take multiple sets of data, which you already have, bring them together, allow them to be used more efficiently to deliver outcomes and to benefit the people of your organization and of the community you serve, is transferrable across the public sector.

Courtesis gave his advice for someone looking to build a similar data storage and search system:

  • Learn from other people’s mistakes – “Ask me what went wrong, what did we do wrong and what would I do differently? Let’s start there,” Courtesis shared.
  • Identify the problem you are trying to solve – “Your problem and my problem may be two different things, so you don’t want to replicate my system and then spend all that money on that technology that is never going to get used because you don’t have the same issues,” Courtesis said.
  • Determine a realistic budget to get started and build out from there.

Mistakes to avoid

“Do not buy a product that solves one problem,” Courtesis shared, “The product has to have multiple uses. You want to be able to use that on a daily basis and it can scale up.”

Tips on procurement

Courtesis shared his advice tips for procurement. First, identify what you are looking for and ensure it is a product you really need.

Then do a proof of concept and test out the product. Have it run through a few drills, so you know right away if it’s capable of doing what you need.

Courtesis recommended doing “bake-offs.”

“I get a couple of companies in that have the same or similar type of a product and I’ll test them out, say, for 30 days each on a similar work case. I’ll have a standard evaluation form. After that 30 days, we’ll fill out an evaluation and then we’ll do the next one. And then after maybe two or three different bake-offs, we’ll sit down as a team, my unit, and evaluate which one meets our needs better with pricing and capability,” Courtesis explained.

To find out more:

Follow Joseph Courtesis on LinkedIn

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Join Microsoft at the International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference

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