Southern Illinois University Edwardsville criminal justice professor Dennis Mares, PhD, shared his expertise on technology in policing and reducing violent crime during a presentation for the Bureau of Justice Assistance on Wednesday, Oct. 7.
Mares, and co-presenter Emily Blackburn, with the Saint Louis Metropolitan Police Department (SLMPD), presented on their collaborative, award-winning Strategies for Policing Innovation (SPI) site project. The project, SkyCop Mobile Surveillance Unit, won the 2020 Phil E. Keith Project of the Year award from the International Association of Law Enforcement Planners.
“The SLMPD was awarded a grant to test the efficacy of mobile surveillance trailers, or “SkyCops,” said Mares, professor in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Criminal Justice. “My work is to explore if and how much crime reductions can be realized by deploying the units. We randomly deployed them for three-week intervals across all police districts in the City of St. Louis.”
During their presentation, Mares and Blackburn shared challenges faced by the SLMPD, strategies for the deployment, and data-based findings upon measurement of impact on gun crime, robbery and vehicle related crime before, during and after deployment.
“One of the key points we made in the presentation was the fact that evaluating technology must be done with care in mind,” Mares explained. “Not only should police agencies try to develop sound and non-biased deployments so evaluations are possible, but also academics must keep in mind that agencies have to be able to continue to implement technology once the research partner completes the evaluation. In St. Louis, we’ve come up with a plan that is scientifically sound, yet can be sustained in perpetuity by the agency.”
Over the next two years, Mares notes the SLMPD aims to achieve approximately 40 complete deployment cycles. This will allow for examination of the overall impact of “SkyCops.”
Photo: SIUE’s Dennis Mares, PhD, professor in the Department of Criminal Justice.