Today’s police officers are getting real excited at the prospect of new law enforcement toys that will be in their hands in the near future. For example, there are the drones that will soon be available to help chase criminals down and then there’s that really cool, and slightly disturbing, speech jamming gun – great for shutting up obnoxious protestors. But these gadgets aren’t ready for show time yet.
The Los Angeles Police Department currently does have its hands on a tool that’s right out of a sci-fi movie. It’s an application that can predict the probability of the occurrence of crimes before they occur. It’s a crude version of what the law enforcers used in Minority Report – without the psychic pre-cogs.
The LAPD is rolling out an application called PredPol (Predictive Policing). It was originally created by UCLA professors Jeff Brantingham and George Mohler to predict earthquakes. They later modified the application for crime prediction.
PredPol runs on a secure, cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform. As a result its information is accessible from any tech device by police officers (i.e., Desktop, laptops and mobile devices). And it can be set up within days for use by analysts– without requiring new hardware, additional technical staff or excessive training.
Law enforcement agencies that license PredPol collect data about criminal acts and where they occur. The software then uses that data to predict where and when future crimes are most likely to occur, down to 500 square foot blocks.
PredPol has been tested and refined through a research partnership with the LAPD since 2011. During that period, the LAPD saw a 36 percent drop in crime rates in the participating districts.
As the PredPol developers continue to perfect their algorithms to make the predictions more accurate, the question that arises is will future generations of the software be refined to the point of being able to predict who will commit what crime and when.