This article is reprinted with permission from The Police Chief magazine, published by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
By Daniel A. Howard, MA, CPM, Commander (Ret.), Mount Laurel, New Jersey Police Department and Peggy M. Schaefer, MPM, DDACTS Project Manager, IADLEST
“Personally, I think NHTSA and TxDOT have done more to enhance the quality of life of the citizens of Texas through their support of the DDACTS philosophy than perhaps any other entity I am aware of. Having personally implemented DDACTS in two communities and witnessed the results of DDACTS operations in others, I am thoroughly impressed with the reductions in crashes and crime that the philosophy brings. The role that NHTSA and TxDOT play in DDACTS educational efforts, in Texas and the United States, is truly saving lives.”
—Stephen Scot Mayer, Chief, Weslaco, Texas, Police Department
The emotional and financial toll that motor vehicle crashes, social harms, and crime have on a community cannot be overstated. The nexus that exists between these issues triggered the genesis of what has become known as the Data-Driven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety (DDACTS) operational model used by more than 700 police agencies across the United States.1 The model has been formally recognized and endorsed by an impressive array of U.S. federal entities and prominent organizations such as the National Institute of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, International Association of Chiefs of Police, and National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) designed and promoted the model beginning in 2008 and tested the effectiveness in communities throughout the United States. In addition, NHTSA partnered with the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training (IADLEST) in October 2010 to increase awareness of the model’s benefits to the law enforcement community. NHTSA’s plan included IADLEST coordinating and delivering DDACTS Implementation Workshops and providing technical and analytical support in all 10 NHTSA regions.
As part of this effort, IADLEST conducted the first of three DDACTS Implementation Workshops in Texas in June 2011. In early 2013, Texas A&M University’s Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) became an active partner in the effort to educate the Texas law enforcement community on the benefits of using the DDACTS model.
DDACTS is an operational model that utilizes location-based traffic crash, crime, calls for service, and enforcement data to create an effective and efficient method for deploying an agency’s resources. The model is based on the deployment of highly visible traffic enforcement as a proven and effective countermeasure that addresses both crashes and crime. Further, the model relies on a temporal and spatial analysis to identify the nexus between crashes and crime to provide a scientifically based method from which police executives can use to plan their agency’s efforts. By identifying areas where a disproportionate level of incidences of crashes and social harm occur, agencies can develop a targeted traffic enforcement strategy designed to specifically impact those areas. Last, the DDACTS model affords a community the benefit of reducing both traffic crashes and crime while building a collaborative partnership among law enforcement and the residents, businesses, and community organizations.2
Focus on Texas
The rise in traffic crashes and fatalities in Texas has been challenging to address, despite state and federal funding commitments and increased enforcement programs, media outreach, and educational campaigns. Statistically, crashes take place and can even be plotted on a map, but there is sparse information available for the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) or law enforcement on methods to reduce these numbers. The DDACTS model became part of the solution by providing law enforcement agencies with a way to use their data proactively instead of reactively and place resources like enforcement and educational efforts where they can have the greatest impact on improving highway safety in Texas.
TxDOT began to lay the groundwork for the future of the DDACTS model by forming partnerships to conduct training workshops throughout the state and, later, to deliver the current program. The collaboration with IADLEST was designed to further TxDOT’s goal of a statewide implementation of the DDACTS model through a focused agency-specific approach. The three-part program built on the foundation laid by TTI and IADLEST by working with many of the more than 50 police departments that were previously exposed to the model through the following efforts:
- Conducting eight-hour agency-specific strategic planning workshops and providing eight hours of focused technical assistance for departments ranging in size from 15 members to 2,000. Once completed, additional remote technical support is provided to help the agencies continue to overcome obstacles to a successful implementation of the DDACTS model.
- Developing and training a cadre of in-state DDACTS subject matter experts. This knowledgeable instructional group not only worked with Texas agencies this year, but will also assist with TxDOT’s efforts to provide a Texas-centric focus to departments in the state for years to come.
- Conducting an intensive two-day analytical training workshop for law enforcement personnel assigned to the analytical function in their respective agencies. This workshop focused on ways to efficiently use hotspot mapping to identify deployment strategies for highly visible traffic enforcement.
The TxDOT DDACTS program has impacted departments throughout the state and has exposed more than 200 law enforcement personnel to the model. The program has been well-received, as evidenced by Cleburne Police Chief Robert Severance’s comment.
In 2013, the Cleburne Police Department sent officers to three-day workshops in Norman, Oklahoma, and Lubbock, Texas, prior to implementing DDACTS. Thanks to the partnership between TxDOT and IADLEST, we hosted a one-day workshop in 2016. This allowed us to provide valuable training to our first line supervisors… DDACTS is helping the Cleburne Police Department reduce social harms in our community. It has gained support from a broad spectrum of community stakeholders because it is data driven, evidence based, and procedurally just.3
Future of DDACTS in Texas
People who have heard about DDACTS may think it relates more to crime than traffic safety; however, agencies educated on the model and its techniques know differently. The emphasis of the DDACTS model is in reducing both crime and crashes as related by Missouri City Assistant Chief Lance Bothell:
The Missouri City Police Department is excited and looking forward to a full implementation of DDACTS as we strive to decrease the number of vehicle crashes and other social harms in our community. We have already begun the process of getting buy-in from our citizens through press releases, monthly meetings, and social media. We have also had meetings with every member of the department and begun the organizational change that needs to happen to make this program a success. We are looking forward to great things.4
While the model has proven to have significantly reduced crime in many communities throughout Texas, it has also created commendable decreases in vehicle crashes as well, such as the 9 percent reduction achieved in Cleburne, Texas.5
TxDOT is poised to embark in a new, more efficient direction to effect change to the trend of increasing crashes in the state, thereby making the citizens of Texas safer. After hearing several success stories from agencies learning to utilize the DDACTS model through IADLEST in fiscal year 2016, TxDOT determined that agencies involved in their Selected Traffic Enforcement Program (STEP) should have primary access to DDACTS training and techniques so that the benefits of both programs can be combined to multiply results. In 2017, TxDOT plans to pair existing and first-year STEP agencies to provide IADLEST-coordinated DDACTS training with intensive data analysis completed by TTI to sharpen the traffic safety components and apply these directly to STEP enforcement. The hope of everyone involved is that not only will those communities served by STEP grants and the DDACTS model see reductions in their serious crash rates and fatalities, but also see reductions in their violent crime rates and other social harms affecting their communities.
The benefits of using the DDACTS model are being recognized in many departments in Texas by police executives who are committed to using a data-driven approach, but none more so than the Weslaco and Pearland Police Departments. These agencies will be the first in the United States to have all of their officers (65 and 154, respectively) and many of their non-sworn staff trained in the DDACTS model. Although several Texas police executives have voiced their support for the DDACTS model, Pearland Police Department Chief J.C. Doyle sums it up best:
Any crime is too much crime, and I have a lot of faith in the DDACTS policing model. I believe this will allow us to more effectively deploy our personnel and resources. DDACTS will help us identify problem crime and crash areas for high-visibility traffic enforcement and other problem-solving solutions to reduce both crime and crashes in Pearland. All Pearland police officers, as well as some support personnel, will be trained in the DDACTS model to help ensure a successful outcome for our city.6
It is clear that the DDACTS operational model has proven to reduce crashes and social harms in several communities in Texas and countless others throughout the United States. The efforts in Texas are commendable and poised to increase public safety within the state, and they demonstrate an approach that is worth replicating in other areas.
1National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Data-Driven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety (DDACTS): Operational Guidelines (Washington, D.C.: NHTSA, 2014), 2.
3Rob Severance (chief of police, Cleburne, Texas, Police Department), email to Don Howard, June 6, 2016.
4Lance Bothell (assistant chief, Missouri City, Texas, Police Department), email to Don Howard, May 16, 2016.
5The percentage is based on a comparison between 2014 and the previous three-year average. Cleburne, Texas, Police Department, 2015 Cleburne Police Annual Report, 10.
6J.C. Doyle (chief of police, Pearland, Texas, Police Department), email to Dan Howard, May 20, 2016.
– See more at: http://www.policechiefmagazine.org/traffic-safety-initiatives-texas-department-of-transportation-takes-the-bull-by-the-horns-a-data-driven-approach-to-crime-and-traffic-safety/#sthash.yLlGpfi4.dpuf