This article identifies issues in creating police patrol districts so as to balance resource allocation among districts, describes various districting techniques currently used, and discusses some technologies that could be used in making decisions about districting and resource allocation.
As geographic information system software and other computer systems have improved, “operations analysis”--the analysis of internal operations as a way of allocating police resources more effectively--has achieved a higher status in crime analysis literature. Simultaneously, crime analysts began making recommendations for the timing and geographic allocation of patrol resources. Most of the literature on operations analysis, however, has focused on case studies; a comprehensive, authoritative operations analysis text has yet to be developed. Consequently, when analysts create resource allocation plans, they generally develop their own formulas and procedures, with varying degrees of success. Meanwhile, modern GIS systems and databases exist, waiting for analysts to use them in their redistricting and resource allocation tasks. If an agency lacks the funds to purchase a comprehensive computer model, redistricting can become a lengthy process that involves testing, adjusting, and retesting before the ideal districting plan is created. This article describes methods for districting and resource allocation that have been used by the Danvers Police Department (Massachusetts) and the Tucson Police Department (Arizona). The article also briefly discusses how some agencies now use tactical deployment points, which have transcended the concept of districts. Dispatches are based on the closest unit as determined by automatic vehicle location (AVL). The author advises that only time will tell whether AVL will eventually render patrol districting obsolete. What is clear is that the typical police department does not make the most of the available relevant technology. 1 table and 3 references