Last year the criminals of Santa Cruz, California, stole 160 cars and committed 495 burglaries. For a city of 60,000, that's about average. And so are the challenges facing its police force. Since 2001, the SCPD has laid off 10 of its 104 officers, even as the city's population grew by 5,500. The department now has to do more with less, which is the story of just about every police force in America. But this summer, the way the SCPD fights crime changed. It began a six-month experiment using large sets of data and a sophisticated algorithm to forecast when and where future crimes are most likely to take place—and how officers could be deployed preemptively to stop them.
The approach is called predictive policing, and the experiment in Santa Cruz represents a leap forward in the data-driven crime-fighting models that began in the 1990s with CompStat, which uses mapping and statistics to track crime. Data-collection techniques have improved, processing power has increased, and police forces have refined their methods. In Chicago, officers are partnering with computer scientists at the Illinois Institute of Technology to develop a crime-fighting algorithm. In Memphis, a project called Blue CRUSH (Criminal Reduction Utilizing Statistical History) relies on analytics software created by IBM. In Richmond, Virginia, police have reduced crime by adopting consumer-research techniques that Walmart and Amazon use to predict what people will buy. Similar techniques can be used to predict where and when criminals will act.
The experiment in Santa Cruz is different. George Mohler, a30-year-old mathematician, based the experiment's algorithm on one used by seismologists to predict earthquakes and their aftershocks. The algorithm targets property crime, including home burglaries, car breakins and vehicle thefts, which were up 25 percent in Santa Cruz in the first half of this year. Such crimes, Mohler has found, tend to cluster and spread in a way that is similar to tremors after a large quake. The scope of the experiment in Santa Cruz is broad. An entire department is using the software. An entire town is serving as its data set. And because Santa Cruz is so statistically average, the results of its experiment could be applied almost anywhere. The project went live on July 1. A week later, I arrived to find out how the police force in this seaside town is changing how crime gets fought in the 21st century.
The black-and-white cruiser makes a slow turn onto Linden Street. It's just after noon on a Thursday, and I'm riding shotgun with deputy chief Steve Clark, who is leading the rollout of Santa Cruz's predictive-policing program. Clark is 47, with a graying buzz cut and a laid-back surfer's drawl. He grew up in the area and has been a Santa Cruz cop for 25 years.
For almost a week now, Santa Cruz's 60 patrol officers have been relying on George Mohler's software to guide them to "hot spots," areas at the highest risk for home break-ins and vehicle thefts. The department divides its city into five regions, with at least one car on duty in each. Before the experiment, individual officers decided where and how to focus their time when no calls were coming in. Now they will focus on patrolling hot spots, making two or three passes down a particular block during a one-hour window. Officers pick up their hot-spot maps at the roll-call meeting that precedes each shift. The goal, Clark tells me, is "to get smarter about the way we do the basic elements of police work." The days of "primal policing," when the department could "flood the streets with cops and hope you get lucky," are over.
I'm holding a small stack of paper, 10 maps of the city, each marked with a different red box, representing today's 10 hot spots. They are surprisingly small, just 500 feet by 500 feet. Above each map is a set of statistics: the probability that a crime will take place in that area today, the two hourlong windows when that potential crime is most likely to occur, and the likelihood that the crime will be a home break-in or an auto theft ("burgs," Clark calls them). I flip through the stack until I find Linden Street, where, the statistics reveal, there is a 2.06 percent chance of a crime happening today, and 3:1 odds that a crime, should it occur, will be a home break-in versus an auto theft. "These are the high-probability windows," Clark says, pointing to two times above the map, 7 a.m. and noon.
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.