Wednesday, August 17, 2011

It's Easier To Put Cops On The Dots If You Know Where The Dots Will Occur

One of the earliest mantras of CompStat was attributed to Bill Bratton the former head of NYPD and LAPD and that was that the goal of policing was to "put cops on the dots" referring to the dots on a crime map that represented reported crimes. But the problem with this is that the dots represented where crimes had occurred in the past and did not necessarily mean that another crime would occur there in the future.

However, a new experimental predictive policing program at the Santa Cruz, California Police Department might be a game changer for "putting cops on the dots". Erica Goode over at The New York Times has a piece looking at Santa Cruz PD's efforts. From the story:

But Santa Cruz’s method is more sophisticated than most. Based on models for predicting aftershocks from earthquakes, it generates projections about which areas and windows of time are at highest risk for future crimes by analyzing and detecting patterns in years of past crime data. The projections are recalibrated daily, as new crimes occur and updated data is fed into the program.

On the day the women were arrested, for example, the program identified the approximately one-square-block area where the parking garage is situated as one of the highest-risk locations for car burglaries.

I've written before about Santa Cruz PD's predictive policing program. I think that this really holds a lot of promise for law enforcement agencies, especially in light of the budget woes that many agencies face. If agencies can predict where crimes are likely to occur in the future, then they can focus their scare resources on those areas where a future crime is likely to occur and not waste those resources in areas where crime isn't likely to occur. This in turn should make police more efficient at crime suppression.

Yours truly was even quoted in the article when I said: “it’s cheaper to prevent a crime than to solve a crime, and that’s where I think the promise lies.” If we can predict the places that a crime is likely to occur and be there to interrupt that crime, then predictive policing could pay huge dividends.

What are you doing to help your agency be more effective with the resources you have?

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