We pass a woman walking a pair of fluffy Maltese puppies. At a stop, two retirees, both wearing wide-brimmed hats in the midday sun, lean down to say hello through the cruiser's unrolled window. Most break-ins happen during the day, when people are at work, but I'd expected the hot zones to be in or near bad neighborhoods. This isn't a part of town many of his officers would usually pass through during day shifts, Clark says. "Now as I'm driving down the street I'm thinking, OK, we're in an area where there's a high probability of residential burglary. I'm looking at front doors. I'm looking at front yards. I'm looking for screens that are out. That tells me maybe somebody's inside."
On the next block, we pass a man sitting in his car, eating what looks like a fast-food burger. He slumps a little into his seat as the cruiser rolls by. "We're gonna circle back around and look at Mr. Hamburglar there," Clark says. "Usually if you're going to have a cheeseburger, you're going to bring it inside and eat it in your kitchen, right? Maybe he's visiting somebody. Maybe he's waiting to work on a house. Who knows? But when you talk about probabilities, there's a probability that that guy doesn't live in the neighborhood."
George Mohler sits behind his computer in a basement office at Santa Clara University. He is wearing kneelength shorts and a button-down shirt with a baby-blue print, and looks less like a professor than a student (or an indie rocker, which he is—he plays bass in a band called the Idyllists). Mohler pulls up Santa Cruz's crime stats. A string of coordinates, the precise location of individual crimes, runs down the left-hand side of an Excel spreadsheet. Each coordinate is followed by a date, time and code to identify the event—1 for a home breakin, 0 for a vehicle break-in. There are 4,300 crimes in all, dating back to 2006.
In the past decade, property crime fell by 29 percent and violent crime by 39 percent. Both are now at the lowest levels since 1973, when systematic nationwide data collection began. Many factors—an aging population, the end of the crack epidemic, increased incarceration rates—have played a part in the decrease. But most criminologists give a large slice of the credit to the use of comparative statistics, which was pioneered in New York City by former police chief William Bratton. In CompStat, as Bratton called his approach, police departments collect data on recent crimes, map them, and patrol based on those maps.
Mohler's seismology-inspired algorithm is different. In his formula, the distance and time separating two crimes is a data point too, so it assesses the risk of main "shocks" and the risk of aftershocks connected to that first event. "If you have 5,000 events, our model actually considers on the order of 5,000 events: 5,000 multiplied by 4,999 multiplied by 4,998, and so on," Mohler says. It's this massive secondary data set that helps identify the high-probability zones, where "aftercrimes" are most likely to occur. Before he moved to Santa Clara, Mohler proved that his algorithm could work in a simulation run on crime data from Los Angeles's San Fernando Valley. Mohler and his colleagues at the University of California at Los Angeles found that their maps successfully predicted 20 to 95 percent more crimes than maps used in CompStat.
Mohler admits that the earthquake analogy isn't intuitive. "One is a physical process, and one is sociological," he says. "They're not related in terms of what's driving it. But these models are flexible, and they describe a wide range of contagion-like processes." Epidemiologists use the seismologists' model to predict the spread of disease, and the same models are increasingly common in the financial world. "Corporate default is contagious," Mohler says. "One event will trigger a sequence of further events. Basically, anytime an event increases the likelihood of more events, these kind of models can be used."
An algorithm is a progressive series of calculations used to process and analyze large sets of data. Mohler's algorithm draws on basic data from past Santa Cruz burglaries, although other crime-predicting algorithms might incorporate days of the week, holidays or the weather. Mohler's algorithm will, in all likelihood, not always be limited to burglaries, but it's the type of event that it is best suited to. "We're starting with the easiest thing to model," he says. "This is the lowest-hanging fruit."
Just as seismologists are helpless to predict a specific earthquake, the algorithm can't stop a specific break-in. "It's not the kind of thing where you can say, 'There's going to be a crime at this house at this time' and you send the police there and they catch somebody," Mohler says. "It's making patrols more efficient. You have a whole city to cover, and crime is not evenly distributed throughout that city in space and time. Predicting crime is no different from predicting the weather. Except that weather you can't do anything about."
Predictive policing came to law enforcement by way of retail. In 2004, Walmart analyzed a decade's worth of point-of-sale data. The company's researchers discovered, among other things, that before a hurricane, its customers stock up on batteries, bottled water and flashlights. No surprise there. But the same analysis also revealed something less obvious. "In advance of bad weather, their sales of PopTarts—strawberry Pop-Tarts, in fact—go through the roof," says Colleen McCue, a psychologist who, in 2009, co-authored a paper with L.A. police chief Charlie Beck in the law-enforcement magazine The Police Chief titled "Predictive Policing: What Can We Learn from Walmart and Amazon about Fighting Crime in a Recession?"
Criminals are just another type of consumer, McCue says. Most property thefts are crimes of opportunity, and many are fueled by a need for drug money. "If drug prices go up, you see more property crimes," she says. "But we also have some strawberry Pop-Tarts in law enforcement." For eight years, McCue worked as a crime analyst for the Richmond, Virginia, police department, where she was among the first to deploy predictive-policing techniques. In 2003, she analyzed data in the weeks after Hurricane Isabel, and discovered that following bad weather, complaints of random gunfire—what police in Richmond call "promiscuous shooting"—increased. "No one really knew why it was happening," she says. But knowing that it was going to occur and being able to pinpoint the areas at highest risk, the department could prepare accordingly. The Richmond PD deployed officers to targeted areas McCue identified, and random gunfire dropped by 47 percent.
well according to the picture, the only crime commited in santa cruz is car theft
Now this is more like it. Maybe now STEM can be shown in schools to be doing more real-world things beyond just supplying Pop-Tarts on time.
But I don't agree with one part of it. "...cops don’t need to understand why criminals fire guns or steal cars. They just need to know where and when." I would think that to do so would make for an incomplete picture. This would mean that they'd be left only to stop current criminal trends but not new ones.
In summation of any crime there's a "means, motive, and opportunity". And without accounting for motive first and then with opportunity, there's really no way to actually prevent crime 'before' it happens as on Minority Report or Person of Interest; just to tighten the spigot of the patterns.
All criminals would have to do is get this software and start targeting areas that are not predicted to be "hot spots".
Good business for the good guys.
Good business for the bad guys.
Good business for the police guys.
It’s all about, "Location, Location, Location"!
And good statistics just point the way!
This sounds like a mix between Minority Report and Steven James' "Bowers" book series, especially when it's said the cops don't need to know the why but only the where and when.
To fight crime, it's true that the "when" and "where" is all that is needed, but to STOP crime the "why" needs to be countered also.
I would say statistically speaking and even specific region/area/street/house wise yes... However precise timing of crime events would need be based on the requirement of loads of data on personality and situational events going on in real-time that only a ultra intrusive big brother surveillance system can gather (majority are opposed to this, but in a future non-class based society, it may just work).
The basis of this assumption is if you look at for example a street with some criminals living on it and gather up crime history you can very accurately predict crime events on that street. It all comes down to the predictable self-destructive nature of humans and their society.
My dope smoking low-life neighbours here go through a like-clockwork domestic dispute about the same old shit each 7-14 days (police even come out). They are a product of their environment brought up in; their behaviors are VERY predictable as they rarely think about situations and simply just react without thought (can-be-fatal emotional human flaw). Going through the motions so to speak..
Again ALL VERY PREDICTABLE!
YOU'RE ALL WRONG!
There is no way to forsee all of the possible crime that can happen in a city. It is simply impossible with the variables of chance and human improbability at play.
However, there is one known way to decrease the crime rate in a society and decrease the number of violent crimes especially, which is more important than stopping simple theft. That way, is to allow the citizens of the society practice the right that their creator or nature gave them and let them protect themselves. The concealed or open carrying of firearms is a known deterrent for theives and violent criminals. And it is also already written into our founding documents that we have this right, so no new legislation is needed, just re-education of the police force that has become militarized and forgotten its place.
As much as bad guys can be idiots and get themselves caught.
There are also smart bad guys and do achieve positive results of being bad and not getting caught.
This program is based upon those who got caught. And it hopes to catch the repeat offenders.
It does not include the smart bad guys that do not get caught and continue.
the police patrols don't need to know why, that is not for the front lines but for the office jockies to research, cheers
I really hope this works. I live there. Btw, why does the Santa Cruz Sentinel have nothing on this? Once again, local news papers fail me.
-Spouting a fountain of nonsense since 1995-
@Grunt...the more of the dumb guys that get caught (out of the picture) the easier it will be to catch the smart guys, even the first time dumb guys have the same patterns as repeat offenders
The when and where of a crime is just as important as the why. Knowing when and where a crime is most likely to be committed allows for better preemptive data collection. Such data is used for understanding why a crime was committed.
Any newsworthy success would pave the way for a more advanced, albeit costly, data analysis system that begins to account for motive and background information.
Crime is still a basic problem, this is a necessary step toward a more advanced functioning society.
As far as criminals utilizing this software to beat the system... good luck.
The purpose of statistical analysis of data is to find patterns in the data that can be used to predict the most probable patterns in the future. It doesn't mean that a particular violent crime can be predicted.
The analysis of data yields information such as what area of a city and at what time are certain crimes most likely to happen. For instance, home break ins are more likely to happen near the beginning and end of the month because one group of criminals targets people when they are most likely to receive their retirement checks and another robs out of desperation because they run out of money before the end of the month.
Keep in mind that data analysis can only predict patterns. Someone has to use the information to take preventative action. Many times, that action is impeded by bureaucracy. Sometimes, the most obvious solution is too obvious. A good example is home break ins. Many home break ins happen to the elderly and poor because they don't have adequate doors and locks to prevent them. So, who is going to pay to fix the problem? The elderly probably don't have money and can't do the work themselves. Landlords refuse to spend money to make their rental properties more secure and governments tend to spend more money on the well off because they have more political influence.
Unless people who have the money and influence act to help those who do not, nothing will change.
the system says X neighborhood is a hotspot. police increase their patrols there. it happens to be a minority area. police are sued for racial profiling/racial discrimination
As a criminologist, I get to pore over and study all these variables, and while some of the model is based on human behavior and past interactions, there's a whole host of other variables at play, along with other innovative strategies for reducing crime.
My personal favorite is CPTED, Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design. This is an attempt to literally design out crime by preventing access of lucrative targets to illegitimate users. This is why suburbs have twisting, winding, and confusing streets, so non residents get lost, or don't even enter the neighborhood altogether.
Ultimately, as 10jacobf alluded, crime is all about motive, means, and opportunity. Certain factors fuel this, such as the presence of cash businesses, levels of lighting in an area, the presence of neighbors inclined to call the police, etc. You also have to look at the effects of dispersion and dislocation, eg adding more lights and security cameras often just relocates the same crimes to nearby areas. Police are already well aware of hot spots and fuses for crime, and do already patrol these areas knowing full well that there is an increased happenstance of crime in that particular area. Using data to mark these areas is nothing new; these are just refined algorithms.
@Sgtb--interestingly, your thesis that gun proliferation has a discernible impact on crime is completely fallacious. Looking at the data, there's simply no positive correlation one way or the other that gun control (or lack thereof) has an impact on overall crime. You can cite plenty of studies that lean one way or the other, but the meta data is inconclusive.
However, if you're at all familiar with Steven Levitt's work, he has an interesting (and well supported) thesis which accounts for the drastic drop in crime during the early 90's. During the 80's crime experts were predicting an apocalypse of crime, which never materialized. None of the indicators can account for drop, such as innovative policing strategies, gun control, etc. The only thing which explains the sudden drop in overall crime is Roe vs. Wade. Simply put, most crime is committed is committed by males 18-24. Since unwanted children are statistically more likely to become criminals, an inverse correlation is observed between the availability of abortion and subsequent crime. When women were permitted to obtain abortions nationally, the potential population of criminals markedly decreased, which drastically affected the overall crime rate as noted by the UCR and NIBRS.
So I say that people should be allowed to defend themselves and if need be kill an attacker who wants to take from them life (murder), liberty (rape etc.), or property (theft) and you say that it doesn't matter if people are allowed to defend themselves because the same amount of crime will be committed anyway. Then you go on to say that the only real way to effectively reduce crime is to reduce the population by killing the "unwanted" children.
Sorry, but I'd rather give an orphan who is abandoned by their parents a chance at life while taking the life of only those who prove via their own actions that they are incapable of living without violating the rights of others. It seems that you would rather us go back to using Eugenics and force abortions for parents who have undesirable backgrounds and whose families have a "known propensity" for illegal behavior. That is the same kind of BS that we saw last century and that led to the death of hundreds of millions of innocent men, women, and children.
BTW, a woman's chance to choose whether or not she wants to have a child is before she has sex. The same is true for a man, except it is apparently only lawful to enforce the man's commitment to his decision. Name me one case in which a man has sued to force an abortion be done so that he doesn't have to pay child support or deal with the reality that he is going to have the responsibility of raising a child. It doesn' exist. And for good reason! If we say that it is okay for a mother to kill her child and the child of the father just because she doesn't want to accept the responsibility and wants to renig on her prior decisions, then surely it is perfectly acceptable for a man to have the same period of time in which he can deny his relation to the child and choose to never deal with the responsibility of having a child or supporting that child monetarily.
If your name suggest that you are an OSU student or alumni, then I want to let you know that I, a fellow Oklahoman, am pretty disgusted that my state ever produced a person like you.
Lastly, the rate of violent home invasions increased and stayed high after both the UK and Australia gave up their guns. Also, I've never seen an African refugee camp filled with armed refugees. I don't need a "scientific" study to assert common sense and reason to the world around me. Do you think that people who bred animals prior to Darwin "discovering" evolution had any doubt that animals could change over time?
This is a great question -- which type of crime prevention is empirically better? The "old" style, boots on the street, or a more targeted approach?
I saw this pretty cool show at, thisvsthatshow.com
They were doing some big experiments, like figuring out the best way to board passengers onto the plane, front to back, back to front, or something else entirely.
Or, figuring out the best way to beat traffic, stay in your lane (and tough it out), weave in and out, or take the surface streets.
@ Charles Waiser,
Boring! Do you know how to load a vehicle quickly? load it with military men and their gear. Tell a group of Marines to board a plane and to do it with speed and it'll get done. The show that you saw had nothing to do with anything. There is usually a quick and easy explanation for why things take so long. Traffic is caused by people not paying attention while they drive and causind accidents or impeding traffic that wants to go faster even if that means they go over the speed limit(face it, we'd never get anywhere if people all drove like it was Sunday). And in the case of why it takes so long for people to board a plane, the answer is simply that people still don't pay attention and don't take the steps mentally to figure out where there seat is or when to just step out of the way to help someone else get through. If you want to make everything quick and efficient, just take the humans out of the equation.
But alas, that is not a way to live. We cannot live tied to a computer. We cannot let machines live for us. To do so would be inhuman.
Oh, and similar "big experiments" led to highway developers putting stop lights on on-ramps turning nearly every on-ramp on California's highway 76 from a decent 1/4 mile long ramp to an 1/8 mile drag stip and stress booster. The effects of these social engineering projects are rarely the intended effects. Just like most socialist policy. It backfires, alot.