Friday, December 2, 2011

"Big Data" Holds Promise For Police Too

This isn't directly related to crime but does have an indirect application to crime analysis. NPR had a story this week on how companies are searching for people with analytical or mathematical expertise to analyze the large data sets they collect.

"There's one common element across all these people that stands out above everything, and that's curiosity," Patil says. "It's an intense curiosity to understand what's behind the data."

He compares raw data to clay: shapeless until molded by a gifted mathematician. A good mathematician can write algorithms that can churn through billions or trillions of data points and show where patterns emerge.

Not only do businesses have troves of "big data" they can mine for information, but most law enforcement agencies do as well. For instance I put together a data set of over 1 million of our Call For Service records the last time I redrew our beat boundaries. This is why the field of predictive policing looks so promising. The big data we hold is the key for making our agencies better at solving crime problems in our community.

Of course most agencies aren't in a position to hire a mathematician to mine their data. However, as the technology matures it should trickle down to where we can get at it. This makes me hopeful that we can use these techniques to serve our communities.

How does you agency use your "big data" to drive your operations?

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