Pre-Cog Is Real – New Software Stops Crime Before It Happens

While I’m all for crime reduction and the geekiness is impressive, this creeps me out just a little…

Large earthquakes are unpredictable, but the aftershocks that follow are not and their occurrence can be predicted with mathematical models. It occurred to Dr. George Mohler, one of the Santa Clara mathematicians, that criminal activity might not be random and that, similar to aftershocks, some crimes might be predicted by other crimes that precede them. The reasoning is based on the assumption that crimes are clustered – it’s what police call ‘hotspots.’ Burglaries will occur in the same area and at the same houses because the vulnerabilities of that area will be known to the burglars. Gang violence is also clustered. A gang shooting will often trigger retaliatory shootings.

Using the aftershocks-inspired algorithms Dr. Mohler and his team came up with a model, then sought to test it. In collaboration with the LAPD they plugged in data on 2,803 residential burglaries occurring within a block of the San Fernando valley 11 miles by 11 miles throughout 2004. For a given day the software calculated the top 5 percent of city blocks most likely to be burglarized. The results convinced the LAPD that, had they been using the program, they could have prevented a quarter of burglaries across the entire test region for that day.

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