By Alissa Black

Building trust: how data can help the police to better serve our communities

Why we invested: Elucd

Trust between law enforcement agencies and the people they protect is essential in a democracy. It is key to the stability of our communities, the integrity of our criminal justice system, and the safe and effective delivery of policing services. Unfortunately, this trust has been declining among some groups in the US over the past several years, with high-profile incidents of police violence towards people of color and sometimes diverging views between the police and the public.

Most law enforcement agencies use crime data (e.g., number of arrests, incidents of theft) as a primary measurement of effective policing. Like many organizations, these agencies are driven to manage what they measure, so when police departments only measure crime statistics, they’re not necessarily managing important elements of their work such as community trust. Data such as local sentiment is critical to improving the quality of policing, protecting community members, and enhancing trust with communities, but law enforcement agencies currently don’t have a means of collecting it, and putting it into use.

Elucd addresses this gap by providing police departments with the public’s perceptions of trust, safety, and satisfaction. With Elucd’s community polling tools, departments can measure citizen sentiment with the aim of improving their quality of service and enhancing trust with the people they serve. Elucd accomplishes this by disseminating polls through mobile ads in popular apps, like Candy Crush, across targeted neighborhoods asking questions such as: Do you feel safe in your neighborhood? Do you trust the police? Are you confident in your local police department?

Given population density and the ubiquity of smartphone devices, the company is able to consistently capture statistically significant sample sizes on levels of police trust. For example, in New York City where the product was initially developed in partnership with the nation’s largest municipal law enforcement agency, the New York Police Department, Elucd surveys approximately 10,000 residents each month. The company develops public perception data into a set of three Elucd Neighborhood Sentiment Indices that measure, at the micro-neighborhood level, key metrics of trust, satisfaction, and perception of safety. With these insights, police departments can focus on building trust within their communities and enabling more constructive interactions with their constituents.

At Omidyar Network, we believe civic tech companies such as Elucd can make the delivery of government services more equitable, efficient, and effective. We are pleased to have led Elucd’s seed round late last year because as the company expands to more cities, its ability to enable a new form of policing can shift how police and communities interact, providing the potential to change policing in America.