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Evaluating the Feasibility and Utility of Forms-Scanning Software for Streamlining Crime Mapping Data Collection & Analysis: Final Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 2001
64 pages
This report assessed the utility, feasibility, and cost effectiveness of using TELEform, the leading forms-recognition software to input data directly from police reports and export the data to standard PC-based database for streamlining the data collection process for crime mapping and analysis.
The use of spatial analysis has historically provided a number of important insights regarding crime. Crime mapping data analysis has the ability to improve the efficiency or effectiveness of police personnel by boosting their ability to identify problem areas, assess the impact of prevention, control enforcement efforts, and target scarce resources. Crime mapping provides an effective tool for presenting analyses to community groups and local government in an easy readable format. In this final report, sponsored by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, a weak link in a proposal for streamlining crime data entry analysis and mapping is described and evaluated; the use of forms-scanning software. The forms-scanning software is intended to make data entry more efficient and improve the utility of crime data for analysis and mapping. A series of experiments and evaluative exercises were conducted in order to test the ability of TELEform software to meet the success criteria of user friendliness, stability, utility with police reports, superiority to manual entry and error correction, and economy. TELEform is a leading forms-scanning software used currently by nearly 20,000 agencies and organizations. The evaluation indicated that TELEform could be used successfully to scan data directly from police reports into crime analysis and mapping databases and that such use could be cost effective in certain circumstance. The results showed: (1) the software is as user friendly as common PC database programs and the learning curve for TELEform operators and reviewers is similar to that for such programs; (2) the software appears to be stable and reliable when used in conjunction with what is presently considered a moderately powered PC and a scanner equipped with a document feeder; (3) TELEform was able to scan data directly from batches of reports that had been filled out by police officers who hand-printed the entries in each data field; (4) TELEform was nearly 13 percent faster than manual data entry and as accurate as manual data entry; and (5) TELEform appears to present a potentially cost-effective method for entering data into a computerized database from paper police report forms. Positive evaluative results may not be the best solution to the data entry problems faced by most policing organizations. There are police agencies that have the option of entering data directly into their databases, an option that is likely to be even easier and more cost effective than forms scanning. However, forms-scanning software may provide a viable alternative for police agencies that are unready or unable to convert to a paperless reporting environment. Making the data collected by police more useful and accessible could multiply the productivity of police officers. References, appendices

Date Published: July 1, 2001