Science Scope

Police forecast crimes using earthquake prediction models

Police forecast crimes using earthquake prediction models

Posting in Cities

The police department of Santa Cruz, California is trying to get to the scene of a crime before the criminals do. The police are using an algorithm that analyses past crime statistics to determine hot spots in the city.

What if police could predict property crimes with the same accuracy the Weather Channel can predict whether or not a storm will pass? The Santa Cruz Police Department isn't exactly the Precrime unit from the 2002 film Minority Report, but it uses models normally used for predicting aftershocks from earthquakes, to predict when and where crimes are likely to occur, The New York Times reports. Car and home burglaries and car thefts are all types of crimes that can be anticipated with the algorithm.

Without the help of technology, crime fighting generally involves this: When there's a crime, more cops flock to the scene. However, in this economy, police departments are stretched for labor. So the police in Santa Cruz are checking to see if math can help distribute crime fight resources more efficiently. More data has the potential to help the police operate much more efficiently and keep neighborhoods safer.

The Santa Cruz police department used eight years of crime data to make predictions about where time will occur. The city streets were cut into sections of 500 feet by 500 feet. The program is fed new data, as new crimes occur. To figure out hotspots, officers used the program to determine areas likely to be crime scenes.

It can predict the day and time of the crime with 71 percent accuracy, according to CBS SF. As new data comes in, it gets recalibrated. The predictive policing program is part of a six month trial, which began last month. So far, researchers found that certain crime types show an elevated risk following an event, such as retaliation for inter-gang violence or burglars who return to the same or neighboring house days after the original crime occurred.

The Los Angeles Police Department plans to implement the predictive intelligence soon.

With less staff to answer more calls, police departments around the nation are leaning on technology as a crutch in financially tough times. But there are different ways to go about predicting crimes. A unit in East Orange, New Jersey relies on sensors and other high tech devices to keep a closer eye on the streets. At the push of a button, the system can plot the location of a crime and triangulate with the two closest police units, East Orange police director Jose Cordero, previously told me.

via Data-Crunching Program Guides Santa Cruz Police Before a Crime [New York Times]

Photos from Santa Cruz and Los Angeles predictive policing 6 month Trial

Related on SmartPlanet:

Share this

Boonsri Dickinson

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Boonsri Dickinson is a freelance journalist based in San Francisco. She has written for Discover, The Huffington Post, Forbes, Nature Biotech, Technewsdaily.com, Techstartups.com and AOL. She's currently a reporter for Business Insider. She holds degrees from the University of Florida and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure