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Modernizing COMPSTAT at the Vancouver Police Department with ArcGIS and Microsoft Power BI

“By successfully integrating Esri’s ArcGIS Operations Dashboard and Story Maps, with Microsoft Power BI into a unified COMPSTAT solution, the VPD was able to drive evidence-based decision-making to the forefront of daily policing activities” 
Dr. Ryan Prox, OOM, S/Constable in Charge of CAADU

The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) was one of the first adopters of COMPSTAT in Canada and continues to innovate the application of this performance management system as a means of sharing information and improving on the effective use of its limited police resources. COMPSTAT, short for “Computer Statistics”, has been adopted by major metropolitan police services across the United States, Canada and globally. COMPSTAT is based on four distinct principles: timely and accurate intelligence; effective tactics; rapid deployment; and relentless follow-up and assessment.1 This policing approach originated from the New York Police Department (NYPD), and is premised on assisting police agencies to prevent and reduce crime, identify crime trends and patterns, enhance operational decisions, and increase transparency and accountability.2 

VPD’s jurisdiction consists of four districts (patrol areas), each having a District Commander who is responsible for overseeing efforts at combating, preventing, and reducing crime in their respective areas. These efforts are inspected at COMPSTAT by executive management to assess the effectiveness and success of the measures implemented, and it is through this process that the District Commander is held accountable.

For the VPD to effectively combat, prevent, and reduce crime, COMPSTAT inspections are held every 28 days, whilst some other police agencies may hold COMPSTAT inspections every week or bi-weekly. The inspection is typically conducted using several core information products, such as maps, charts, crime statistics reports and spreadsheets, PDFs, and a stand-alone ArcGIS Desktop. These information products are used during the COMPSTAT inspections to help the District Commanders, managers, and other operational staff understand and illustrate crime trends and patterns, and ongoing crime prevention strategies. 

However, generating these reports can be time-consuming, as many are dependent on manual processes that result in static Adobe PDFs with a limited ability to distribute information in a timely manner.  In an effort to make the whole COMPSTAT process more efficient and as part of its mandate to help the department innovate and become more intelligence-led in its police operations, VPD’s Crime Analytics Advisory and Development Unit (CAADU) researched various technology platforms, ultimately deciding on a browser-based solution that bridged the gap between real-time statistical reporting and GIS mapping. 


Although the VPD compiled crime data daily, the information products for COMPSTAT were published every 28 days. The static products were generated using Excel spreadsheets, PDFs, and ArcGIS shapefiles. The COMPSTAT crime data presented in these disparate forms were not easy to disseminate and were difficult for police members to understand.  Furthermore, licensed ArcGIS Desktop software was needed to view COMPSTAT maps that were in ArcGIS shapefile format, thereby limiting the ability to share broadly.

This process meant that users would have to wait 28 days to see published COMPSTAT information products posted to VPD’s internal website. Once published, users would need to have Microsoft Excel, Adobe Acrobat Reader, and a licensed ArcGIS Desktop installed on their computers to view the COMPSTAT information.  In addition, they would also need to learn and understand how to navigate within these software applications in order to retrieve the necessary information. Users typically had to scroll through several Excel worksheets to get COMPSTAT bar chart information, while for COMPSTAT mapping information, users also had to scroll through several PDF maps or be trained in how to use ArcGIS Desktop.

According to Betty Ling, Senior GIS Coordinator for the Vancouver Police Department, "This is where users find it challenging to get the COMPSTAT data and information they need, when they need it.” Because of this challenge, District Commanders that require COMPSTAT data outside of the 28 day cycle, are dependent on assistance from specialized personnel in order to obtain the information.  Ling continues, “Crime doesn’t stop, so it is most optimal for District Commanders to have real-time situational awareness.” 


According to Garry McCarthy, former Chicago Police superintendent and former NYPD deputy commissioner who ran COMPSTAT meetings in New York for seven years, “CompStat is not just a meeting that happens every week or every other week; it’s a process, and the process takes place every single day.”3   With this in mind, CAADU wanted to find a more efficient means for senior management, police officers, and other staff to view COMPSTAT data and information whenever they need it. 

CAADU gathered the business requirements and conducted a workflow assessment to determine what available technology could display real-time COMPSTAT data and information on a daily basis. They specifically looked at what technology was available in-house and what would easily integrate with their existing infrastructure. CAADU also investigated the possibility of changing VPD’s COMPSTAT process to be a more dynamic, where the data and information was automated and updated on a daily basis, thereby providing COMPSTAT stakeholders with mission critical information when needed. Furthermore, CAADU wanted to provide users with real-time COMPSTAT indicators, statistics, and benchmarks to monitor, track, and enhance operational decisions through a single user interface. The objective was to digitally transform and modernize VPD’s COMPSTAT into a user-friendly and interactive dashboard that would leverage the department’s existing ArcGIS Enterprise infrastructure.  CAADU examined in detail each of the COMPSTAT products that was published every 28 days to ensure that the COMPSTAT Dashboard would, at a minimum, provide the same (if not better) information. 

The change from static PDF reports to an interactive web browser format has had a transformational effect on how the police department approaches accountability and the timely dissemination of mission critical information. This has assisted the VPD in becoming intelligence-led and being able to respond to emerging issues with a far more rapid deployment of resources.

Dr. Ryan Prox, OOM, S/Constable in Charge of CAADU

CAADU used an iterative design methodology in the digital transformation of their COMPSTAT.  The first design used a combination of Esri’s ArcGIS Operations Dashboard and ArcGIS StoryMaps.  In order to match the existing COMPSTAT format, the solution was divided into 14 crime categories, and for each of those crime categories, the Operations Dashboard consisted of a serial chart, interactive map, and indicator widgets.

Two-column bulleted list of COMSTAT crime categories

Table 1. COMPSTAT Crime Categories

The interactive dashboard was designed to be intuitive and easy to understand, eliminating the need for end-user training. It displayed the most pertinent crime information requested by the end-users while minimizing interaction to only five (5) buttons in each a category selected. A user would simply select a specific district and the desired crime category to view the respective COMPSTAT information. In total, all 14 crime categories were aggregated through the ArcGIS Operations Dashboard, and then displayed in a tabbed ArcGIS Story Map.

Screenshot of VPD COMPSTAT Dashboard

Figure 1. VPD’s first design of the COMPSTAT dashboard

The solution also included a COMPSTAT crime statistics summary report that was a tabular display of all the crime categories summarized into a single page report. To do this, CAADU created a “tabular” element via Operations Dashboards indicator widgets.  However, over 350 indicator widgets were necessary to mimic VPD’s current COMPSTAT crime statistics summary report. Although this worked and displayed the required information, having over 350 indicator widgets in a single Operations Dashboard was not ideal for readability and system performance.

Screenshot of VPD COMPSTAT Operations Dashboard in tabular format

VPD’s first design of the COMPSTAT crime statistics summary in “tabular” format using ESRI’s Operations Dashboard

The second design leveraged much of what was created in the first iteration, but integrated Microsoft Power BI. CAADU maintained the district breakdown and the 14 crime categories within the Operations Dashboards along with the compilation of the tabbed Story Map.  However, instead of the 350 indicator widgets they integrated Microsoft Power BI to create the COMPSTAT summary crime statistics report. The Microsoft Power BI design and format was similar to the Esri Operations Dashboard, where the user was presented with five (5) buttons to switch between the district and citywide information displayed.  In addition, the team implemented a dropdown filter for users to view historical COMPSTAT crime statistics summary reports going back three years.

Image of updated COMPSTAT dashboard design

Figure 2. Second (final) design of VPD’s COMPSTAT dashboard using ArcGIS Operations Dashboard, Story Maps, and Microsoft Power BI

"The process to integrate the Microsoft Power BI report into the COMPSTAT dashboard was far less complicated than initially anticipated. This is because the first design already helped in developing the data format needed for the reporting structure requirements in Microsoft Power BI report,” explains Ling. To integrate the Microsoft Power BI report into Esri StoryMaps, an extra tab containing the COMPSTAT crime statistics summary report was created. There was minimal configuration required and the process flowed seamlessly.


The creation and implementation of the COMPSTAT Dashboard has provided the VPD with many benefits, including cost-savings, a streamlined workflow, enhanced operational decision making, and increased situational awareness, transparency, and accountability of crimes occurring within the City of Vancouver. 

Importantly, the use of the COMPSTAT Dashboard did not require additional software licensing, as it relied on leveraging VPD's existing ArcGIS Enterprise and Microsoft Power BI Server. This approach allowed the VPD to maximize their current investment in GIS technology and improve operational services and delivery, while incurring no additional costs beyond the initial technology investment. The integration of the Esri’s ArcGIS Operations Dashboard and StoryMaps with Microsoft Power BI enables users throughout the VPD to access COMPSTAT crime data and information that is updated in near real-time, replacing a dated process that limited access to this information to every 28 days. Users no longer need to use or understand how to use Excel spreadsheets, PDFs, or an ArcGIS Desktop license to review COMPSTAT crime data and information. COMPSTAT information is now available on a single webpage display that can be accessed on any computer across the organization, without the need for any specialized software or customized installations.  All that is required is a simple web browser, such as Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome. 

Digitally transforming and modernizing COMPSTAT to an easily accessible dashboard has also helped to boost users’ confidence in using technology and GIS. Police personnel are able to obtain the COMPSTAT crime information they need, when they need it, without being reliant on specialized analytic staff.   This in turn has created greater efficiencies within the organization releasing highly trained analysts and GIS specialists to focus on more complex and advanced tasks, beyond simple crime statistics reporting.  

Ryan Prox adds, “We are continually innovating; pushing the unit to be early adopters of cutting-edge technology solutions that enhance and increase operational effectiveness of the department, supports evidence-based decision-making, and contributes to a safer city.”


A special thank you to our guest author, Dr. Ryan Prox. Dr. Prox is the Senior Constable in Charge, Crime Analytics Advisory & Development Unit (CAADU), Vancouver Police Department.

[1] Police Executive Research Forum, 2013, Compstat: Its Origins, Evolution, and Future In Law Enforcement Agencies. Washington, DC 20036. ISBN: 978-1-934485-23-1

[2] William J. Bratton and Sean W. Malinowski, 2008, “Police Performance Management in Practice: Taking COMPSTAT to the Next Level,” Policing, Volume 2, Number 3, 259–265.

[3] Police Executive Research Forum, 2013, Compstat: Its Origins, Evolution, and Future In Law Enforcement Agencies. Washington, DC 20036. ISBN: 978-1-934485-23-1