Putting the bite on crime with predictive policing

Imagine thwarting a crime even before it occurs by predicting when and where it will happen. Shades of the 2002 Tom Cruise futuristic action thriller Minority Report? Well, in a way yes, IT World Canada reports.

No ‘precogs” are being tethered to a computer yet, but some police agencies south of the border are experimenting with analytics technologies and what is being called predictive policing.

For example, for the last seven years the PredPol algorithm developed by a team of mathematicians and social scientists at the University of Los Angeles (UCLA), University of Santa Clara and UC Irvine, has been analyzing crime incident information to some members of the Los Angeles Police predict where certain types of property-related crimes are most likely to happen during certain police patrol shifts.

Similar experiments in police precincts in New York and Boston using other technologies have also been carried out.

As the PredPol Web site states, its mission is simple: “Place officers at the right time and location to them the best chance of preventing crime.”

… Predictive policing brings up concerns of class and racial profiling, according to Andrew Ferguson, associate professor of law at the University of the District of Columbia.

“Profiling suspicious act activities in not new, and it mirrors the daily practice of police officers who informally have an idea of stereotypical criminal activity,” he wrote in his paper titled Predictive Policing and Reasonable Suspicion. “…What is significant is that predictive policing will change the Fourth Amendment calculus of reasonable suspicion.”