Giving cops the ability to predict future crimes sure sounds like a great idea (as long as Tom Cruise isn’t involved), but how do you do it? Well, the Santa Cruz Police Department is betting that you do it the same way you predict Earthquake aftershocks… by constructing mathematical models based on data of past incidents.
And the crazy thing? It seems like it’s working.
The computer program uses data from the last 8 years of previous burglaries to create a list of 10 “hot spots” of likely burglary sites. Police then adjust their daily patrols to hit those hot spots and feed new burglary information to the program each day.
Now, they’re not looking to catch criminals in the act (the program can’t predict individual crimes, of course), but they are hoping to prevent crimes with a more effective police presence. The program was developed by a team of Santa Clara University researchers, including an anthropologist, a criminologist and two mathematicians.
How is it doing? Well burglaries in July were down 27 percent from July 2010, but of course the program will have to run longer before it’s accuracy can really be judged. According to the LA Times, the LAPD are also interested in using the program later this year and are hoping to expand the parameters from burglaries to include violent crimes like gang shootings.
Here’s hoping they don’t have a problem with that pesky “free will.”