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LAPD Predicting Crime with PredPol – KQED California Report

LAPD Predicting Crime with PredPol – KQED California Report

KQED (NPR Affiliate) ran a story on PredPol and Los Angeles Police on their recent California Report show. Here is an excerpt (and full link below):

In an age of big data, California police departments are getting in on the action. In Los Angeles, the LAPD now uses software for what it calls “predictive policing”—anticipating where crimes are likely to happen before they happen.

Outside the LAPD’s Foothill Division station, at the northern edge of Los Angeles, police Sgt. Tom Gahry sits in his black-and-white patrol car. He’s shuffling through a stack of maps with bright red squares drawn on them

“These squares,” Gahry explains, pointing to one of the printouts, “according to the computer system, there’s a high probability that a crime will occur within one of those squares.”

Gahry is one of the officers using predictive policing software called PredPol. It takes crime data, runs it through an algorithm, and then generates these maps. The maps tell police where crimes might happen –- before they take place. Police can spend extra time in the areas at risk for crime, the thinking goes, and prevent those crimes from ever occurring. The LAPD says predictive policing has helped reduce crime here in the Foothill Division.

This predictive policing software’s journey started seven years ago, at UCLA. There, academics and police officers began using math to study crime. One of the postdocs on the project, mathematician George Mohler, discovered an equation that transformed the work.

Mohler, who now teaches at Santa Clara University, realized that, mathematically, earthquakes and crime work in a similar way. Mathematical models for predicting earthquake aftershocks could be applied to predict the “after-crimes” of an initial incident.

According to Mohler’s model, one crime sets off a wave of crimes in an area. The equation draws in details from police reports, such as times, locations and types of crimes that already have happened.

Mohler explains, “The idea would be, after that initial report gets filed, then the model says ‘Hey! There’s a risk of after-crimes, or aftershocks.’ And then the police go into that area and they prevent those second and third crimes from occurring

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