‘Predictive Policing’ Is Making ‘Minority Report’ A Reality

Giuseppe Macri Tech Editor
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Though Tom Cruise needed human precognitive prodigies to predict crime in the 2054 dystopia of “Minority Report,” software developer PredPol is proving you can do it with computers in 2015.

The company’s “Predictive Policing” software compiles past police incident reports and runs them through an algorithm that generates reports on where, when and what types of crimes are most-likely to occur. Departments take this information and distribute it to their officers, who aggressively patrol the 10-20 hot spots where PredPol predicts crimes will likely occur in a given shift.

According to a Forbes report, police departments pay between $10,000 and $150,000 for the program, which has led to a double-digit drop in crime rates in Santa Cruz, Calif. Almost 60 departments across the U.S. currently use PredPol, including major cities such as Los Angeles and Atlanta, and out of 200 law enforcement agencies polled in 2012, 70 percent said they planned to implement similar software within two to five years.

Its impossible to know if PredPol is the source of the drops, as crime rates fluctuate, but according to the company, if officers spend even 5 to 15 percent of their shift in the software’s identified hotspots, they’ll prevent more crime than they otherwise would based on their own knowledge or other analyses.

PredPol’s predictions are based on past patterns of behavior, formulas and models — still a far stretch from Tom Cruise’s mind-reading “precogs.” Even still it appears to get results — in the two out of six police precincts where PredPol has been deployed in Atlanta, crime rates have fallen, where it has remained steady or risen in the other four. In Los Angeles, the software predicted twice as many crimes as LAPD analysts. Though it still isn’t proven if it’s PredPol, normal fluctuation or officers’ awareness that they’re under the microscope, PredPol is confident that they’re making a difference.

“A lot of human behavior can be explained with very simple mathematical models,” PredPol co-founder Jeff Brantingham told Forbes.

The software is similar to a program that’s been developing in the Chicago Police Department, where police not only have built a database of information for predicting and policing hotspots, but use that information to follow up with specific ex-convicts. (RELATED: Chicago Police Develop Real ‘Minority Report’ Computer To Predict Crimes)

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Giuseppe Macri