Follow the Data

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Predictive policing

While listening to my backlog of the BBC Arts and Ideas podcast, I stumbled into a discussion of predictive policing in an interview with William Bratton, Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department and former Chief of the NYPD (he is said to have come up with the “zero tolerance” concept). The podcast is here (mp3 link); the predictive policing discussion is toward the end. Of course, this concept evokes something out of Philip K. Dick (“Minority Report”). Bratton has been involved in something called COMPSTAT, “the internationally acclaimed command accountability system that uses computer-mapping technology and timely crime analysis to target emerging crime patterns and coordinate police response.” He calls for enhanced wireless broadband capabilities for public safety, and claims that predictive policing (well, he actually says “utilizing technology”) has so far prevented 300 homicides in Los Angeles, corresponding to a net positive economic impact of 1.2 billion USD (yes, a homicide has a negative impact of 4 million USD!)

Bratton talks about “real-time crime centers” and “hot spot policing” where emerging patterns or trends can be detected early and the area in question can be flooded with police resources. Somewhat in analogy to current healthcare trends, the focus is moving to prevention of crime rather than response to crime.

Here is an interesting article about predictive analytics in policing.


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  1. Pingback: Snippets « Follow the Data

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