Over the last few weeks PredPol, the predictive policing company, has received a significant amount of international coverage from their product deployment in Kent (the United Kingdom) and interest by agencies throughout Europe. Here are excerpts from an article that ran in the Gravesend Reporter in England.
“Predicting the future is standard practice for weather forecasters, economists, think tanks and business. Now the police are finding their own way of mapping crime before it even happens…
The software, PredPol – which stands for predictive policing – has been brought to north Kent straight from California for its first trials in the UK.
In Santa Cruz and Los Angeles, where the software was first tested in 2011, crime dropped by 27 per cent and 12 per cent respectively in the first six months.It began as an academic project seven years ago involving mathematicians, social scientists and an anthropology professor whose goal was to understand how crime hot spots occur.
They found that by using a mathematical algorithm similar to one for predicting earthquake aftershocks they could create predict where crimes would happen. Speaking to The Reporter Jeff Brantingham, anthropology professor at the University of California, explains: “When there is an earthquake you see a lot about how it produces aftershocks. In general they occur near in time and place to a main shock. Crime is very much the same. It you look at crime hotspots they appear quickly and spread around. When a burglar breaks into a house it makes the chance of crime occurring close by much more likely.”
The PredPol software maps years of past crime data and is updated daily with the location, time and type of crime committed. From this it creates prediction boxes of precise 500 sq ft zones which are listed in priority order as to where crimes are most likely to occur, which is then delivered to the smart phones, tablets and PCs of police officers who use it to make decisions on where to deploy.
Steve Clark, deputy chief of police at Santa Cruz Police Department told The Reporter: “Every officer knows where they can go on their beat and likely make an arrest but a predictable habit can form. Sometimes that primal policing sense is right and sometimes it is not. PredPol doesn’t replace an officer’s intuition but rather adds science to those skills.”