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Predictive Policing in Santa Cruz Leads to 19 Percent Drop in Burglaries

Predictive Policing in Santa Cruz Leads to 19 Percent Drop in Burglaries

Faced with declining budgets and greater demands for service police departments are looking for tools that help deploy resources more effectively. One major resource emerging for law enforcement is predictive policing – spearheaded by a new California-based company called PredPol.

PredPol uses a complex algorithm to identify 500-square-foot geographical areas for police to patrol. These locations are where crime is likely to occur – providing predictions for law enforcement that have up until this point exclusively relied on reactive-based policing. The software program provides real time prediction maps for officers to patrol. 
Built on the same model predicting aftershocks after an earthquake, the PredPol software uses simple and constantly calibrated data: location, time and type of crime. The program requires no new hardware or staff to manage, which is key during tight budget times. 
Zach Friend, a Crime Analyst with the Santa Cruz Police Department, one of the first agencies in the nation to deploy this program notes, “we’re facing a situation where we have 30 percent more calls for service but 20 percent less staff than in the year 2000, and that is going to continue to be our reality. So we have to deploy our resources in a more effective way. This model does that.”
The technology has been beta tested in the Santa Cruz for the past year, and in an L.A. police precinct for the past six months, with promising results.Santa Cruz Police have seen a 19 percent reduction in burglaries since implementing the program while Los Angeles Police have seen 25 percent reduction. Both agencies saw reductions tied directly to the crime types the PredPol system targeted. LAPD said the implementation of the program has saved over $4 million in costs to the community. 
“We’ve prevented hundreds of people coming home and seeing their homes robbed.” LAPD Capt. Sean Malinowski said. Capt. Malinowski is leading the LAPD effort in partnership with Jeff Brantingham, an anthropology professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Dr. Brantingham, who helped design the PredPol predictive policing model, claims that the data is derived from criminal behaviors, including repeat victimization, and the notion that criminals tend to stick near areas they know best.

The success of the PredPol system has led LAPD to expand the effort to other divisions. Santa Cruz Police are expanding the programs scope to include some types of violent crimes and additional property crimes including bike thefts, theft from vehicles and even some drug-related crimes.
Last week PredPol was adopted by the Morgan Hill, California Police Department and already police have arrested six people on suspicion of various drug crimes. Over 200 agencies have reached out to PredPol about implementing the program.

“I really see this as a key way to give small and midsize agencies like ours access to big data analytics” Crime Analyst Zach Friend said, “this type of technology helps equalize the playing field and given our resource constraints really help us deploy our officers more effectively.”
The PredPol software was named one of Time Magazines Top Inventions of 2011.
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