Predictive Policing

On Wednesday (November 2), Keith Allen Boyd was detained on charges for allegedly carrying a firearm with the serial numbers scratched off and drugs. The arresting officer was patrolling the Front and Second Streets area of Santa Cruz based on information provided to him by a predictive policing program.

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The Santa Cruz Police Department began testing out the predictive policing computer modeling system in July. It was developed by Criminologist George Tita, Anthropologist Jeff Brantingham and Mathematicians George Mohler and Martin Short. Although similar systems have already been employed by law enforcement agencies, the predictive policing program is far more sophisticated and relies on daily updates to increase its accuracy. Years of crime data have been entered into the system; through statistical modeling, the software predicts which locations a possible break-in, car burglary or other property offence will likely occur. Police officers patrol these areas and ideally catch perpetrators before they have gotten away scot-free.

The predictive policing software’s algorithm was actually based on those used to predict earthquakes and aftershocks. Specifically, the program reveals detailed information such as a 500 by 500 feet area where a crime is likely to occur, the percent probability it will occur, whether it will be a home or car burglary and the two-hour window it will most likely happen.

Shortly after the Santa Cruz police department began their pilot project, officers were directed to a parking garage because the program told them car burglaries were likely to happen in that area that day. When they arrived they found two suspicious women scoping out various vehicles that did not belong to them. Within its first month, the predictive policing program led to five successful arrests.

Predictive policing is starting to be acknowledged across the country. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Palm Beach County and Fort Lauderdale, Florida police departments are considering adopting the program. Researchers and academics at UCLA, including Short, have been working on an algorithm to understand and predict gang crimes in Los Angeles. One aspect of their research is focusing on potential gang versus gang behavior.

The predictive policing program is just one example of how Academics & Criminal Justice Research plays a vital role in law enforcement and crime prevention. If you are a continuous learner, passionate about research and perhaps would like to develop your own revolutionary crime-fighting program, a career as a Criminologist may be your future calling. Pursuing a Criminology Degree will allow you to explore the various research areas vital to the Criminal Justice System.