National Public Radio Features Seattle Police’s PredPol Deployment

National Public Radio Features Seattle Police’s PredPol Deployment

NPR’s All Things Considered did a national feature story on Seattle Police’s usage of PredPol – in addition, NPR noted that Seattle Police have just begun using the predictive policing program for gun violence predictions.  The following provides an overview of the story by Martin Kaste.

“Typically, police arrive at the scene of a crime after it occurs. But rather than send cops to yesterday’s crime, a new trend in law enforcement is using computers to predict where tomorrow’s crimes will be — and then try to head them off.

The software uses past statistics to project where crime is moving. Police in Los Angeles say it’s worked well in predicting property crimes there. Now Seattle is about to expand it for use in predicting gun violence.

It all started as a research project. Jeff Brantingham, an anthropologist at UCLA, wanted to see if computers could model future crime the same way they model earthquake aftershocks. Turns out they can.

“It predicts sort of twice as much crime as any other existing system, even going head-to-head with a crime analyst,” Brantingham says.

Older systems, like the famous CompStat in New York, show where crime has been. This system looks forward.

“The model will actually predict other locations, that effectively say, even though there was a crime somewhere else in your environment, the risk is still greatest in this location today for the next 10 hours or the next 12 hours,” Brantingham explains.

Brantingham and his colleagues are now selling the predictive system to police departments with the name PredPol. At this point, you may be thinking about the sci-fi movie Minority Report. But this is different. No psychics sleeping in bathtubs, for one. More to the point, this doesn’t predict who will commit a future crime, just where it is likely to happen.

In Seattle, police Sgt. Christi Robbin zooms in on a map of the city. Earlier this year, Seattle started using PredPol to predict property crimes. It’s now the first place to try predicting gun violence with the software.

“These red boxes [on the map] are predictions of where the next crimes are likely to occur,” Robbin explains.

At the start of every shift, patrol cops are assigned to those red boxes. “So we’re asking that they spent the time in that 500-by-500-square-foot box, doing whatever proactive work they can to prevent that crime,” Robbin says.

On a recent shift, officer Philip Monzon pulls up inside his box; today, it’s a city block near the Seattle waterfront.

“[The police] want visibility, they want contacts with businesses as are appropriate, and anyone who’s wandering through the area,” Monzon explains.

This area has parking lots, and PredPol’s forecast includes car thefts…[Copyright 2013 NPR]  Read more here.

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