Predictive Policing

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Predictive Policing:

Innovation in Crime Fighting


Time Cover

The Santa Cruz Police Department (SCPD) completed a groundbreaking six-month study of predictive policing, a data-driven policing program that helps direct police resources to hotspot locations before crimes occur. The success of the program, which led to a decrease in burglaries, has been showcased by national and international media.

In fact, the program was named in November by Time magazine as one of the fifty best inventions of 2011. In the last few years, the prestigious Time magazine Invention Issue listed the iPad, electric car and even devices that help people walk again among its top inventions.

“We are honored to be recognized by Time magazine for our predictive policing program” Police Chief Kevin Vogel said. “Innovation is the key to modern policing and, we’re proud to be leveraging technology in a way that keeps our community safer.”

The predictive policing program, developed by Dr. George Mohler of Santa Clara University and a team from the University of California at Los Angeles, uses an earthquake aftershock model to determine where future crimes will occur. Similar to the predictability of an aftershock after an earthquake, the model predicts that there will be “aftercrimes” after an initial crime. The program does not cost the agency anything.

The program was featured by ABC, NBC and CNN nationally, as well as The New York Times, Los Angeels Times, Popular Science magazine and international print and television outlets from France, Germany, Brazil, Japan and Canada.

In the first six months of using the program, the SCPD has seen a decrease in the targeted crime types (burglaries and motor vehicle thefts). The program has shown to be much more accurate in predicting where crimes will occur, breaking down targeted locations into 500 foot by 500 foot areas. Overall, burglaries decreased by 11 percent compared to the first six months of 2011 and 4 percent when compared to the same six-month period in 2010.

The SCPD has agreed to continue the program now that the formal experiment has ended. The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) has also begun using the system, and dozens of law enforcement agencies throughout the country have expressed interest. Lessons that are being learned by the SCPD and LAPD will be integrated into the next generation of the program for other law enforcement agencies.