PredPol Crime-Prediction A Hit In L.A.

PredPol predictive policing crime-prediction software is a big hit with Los Angeles police officers. It was twice as good as human analysts at predicting where burglaries and car break-ins might happen.

When police in an L.A. precinct called Foothill division followed the computer's advice—and focused their patrols within the areas identified—those areas experienced a 25 percent drop in reported burglaries, an anomaly compared to neighboring areas.

"We are seeing a tipping point—they are out there preventing the crime. The suspect is showing up in the area where he likes to go. They see black-and-white [police cruisers] talking to citizens—and that's enough to disrupt the activity," Sean Malinowski, a police captain in the Foothill division, said in a press webinar last week. The division has nearly 200,000 residents in a 46-square-mile area of the San Fernando Valley.

The inputs are straightforward: previous crime reports, which include the time and location of a crime. The software is informed by sociological studies of criminal behavior, which include the insight that burglars often ply the same area.

The system produces, for each patrol shift, printed maps speckled with red boxes, 500 feet on each side, suggesting where property crimes—specifically, burglaries and car break-ins and thefts—are statistically more likely to happen. Patterns detected over a period of several years—as well as recent clusters—figure in the algorithm, and the boxes are recalibrated for each patrol shift based on the timeliest data.

SF fans know where I'm going with this - straight to the babbling precogs in the pre-crime analytical wing of Philip K. Dick's 1956 story Minority Report:

All day long the idiots babbled, imprisoned in their special high-backed chairs, held in one rigid position by metal bands, and bundles of wiring, clamps...

The three gibbering, fumbling creatures, with their enlarged heads and wasted bodies, were contemplating the future.

From PredPol.com via Technology Review.

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