Monday, November 5, 2012

Is The Future Of Predictive Policing Behavioral Data?

There was a recent article over at the website Government Technology that looked at the future for predictive policing. In the piece, several prominent International Association of Crime Analysts members were quoted on their opinions on where predictive policing was headed.

Analysts currently identify crime trends using statistical data on arrests and 911 calls. Based on that information, police commanders deploy officers to areas they believe will be hot spots for illegal activities. But while predictive in nature, the effort is largely reactionary based on past events.

In the future, behavioral data and clues from virtual interactions may help cops stop bad guys before they’ve even drawn up a plan. Think Minority Report — the 2002 film where a police unit was able to arrest murderers before they committed a crime — on a more realistic scale.

It's a long piece but if your interested in where predictive policing technology might be going, you might want to give it a look.


  1. Hi Scott, fantastic article! Thanks for sharing. I came to a similar conclusion after reading a powerpoint that Susan Smith put together on predictive policing. It mentioned a couple of things that made me think a bit about predictive analysis. First, she said that crime is just like any other physical process and that movement and actions associated to it can be predicted. She also stated that this is demonstrated repeatedly in the private sector. It made me recall how large private sector businesses such as Google or Amazon gather behavioural data about us all the time and modify their products/processes to match consumer needs. I think if law enforcement agencies studied the behaviour/needs of criminals the way that these major companies study consumers, then we might have a better chance of predicting criminal behaviour. Like Sherman (1998) noted about evidence-based policing, perhaps we need to have "medical charts" that allow us a more comprehensive understanding of each criminal.

    Thanks, John

  2. John, Given the success that predictive/data mining techniques showed in predicting the election (a la Nate Silver) I bet we see more emphasis on this field in other areas. We have a huge amount of data in law enforcement. Hopefully the technology will become accessible to even smaller agencies to mine that data and help with crime suppression. Thanks for the comment!


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