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Santa Cruz Tests Predictive Policing Program

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the tom-cruise-goes-missing dept.

Crime 228

The police department of Santa Cruz, California is testing a new method for apprehending criminals: beating them to the crime scene. No, they haven't harnessed a group of pre-cogs; they're relying on a computer program that analyzes past crime statistics. "Based on models for predicting aftershocks from earthquakes, it generates projections about which areas and windows of time are at highest risk for future crimes by analyzing and detecting patterns in years of past crime data. The projections are recalibrated daily, as new crimes occur and updated data is fed into the program. ... For the Santa Cruz trial, eight years of crime data were fed into the computer program, which breaks Santa Cruz into squares of approximately 500 feet by 500 feet. ... Officers are given a list of the 10 highest-probability 'hot spots' of the day at roll call. They check those areas during times that they are not out on service calls. Before the program started, they made such 'pass through' checks based on hunches or experience of where crimes were likely to occur."

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This is a fucking dupe (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37113544)

Pretty sure I remember reading a bunch of thought crime comments on this site a few weeks ago.

/. predicted this story back in July (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37113558)

oblig. goatse [slashdot.org]

Law and Oracle (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37113568)

This sounds like something straight out of a Futurama episode.

Re:Law and Oracle (1)

Lanteran (1883836) | more than 3 years ago | (#37113580)

*Facepalm*

Re:Law and Oracle (1)

morari (1080535) | more than 2 years ago | (#37114662)

I bet the doughnut shop is ripe for potential crimes. Better go check it out!

That's actually quite smart (1)

intellitech (1912116) | more than 3 years ago | (#37113570)

It's nice to see police working within the rules for once instead of bending them until they break.

One 'problem' (1)

PhreakOfTime (588141) | more than 3 years ago | (#37113776)

Now, this would require the common street thug to be smart enough to think this up, let alone implement it...but

Wouldn't you pretty much have a schedule where cops are going to be knowing this info? More importantly, wouldn't you pretty much have a schedule where the cops will NOT be?

Re:One 'problem' (2)

JordanL (886154) | more than 3 years ago | (#37113794)

Yeah, if you're powerful enough to have an informant in the department. Of course at that point you're fairly immune to the local cops anyway and will likely only really be nailed once the Feds get involved.

Re:One 'problem' (1)

kheldan (1460303) | more than 3 years ago | (#37114150)

You wouldn't even really need an inside man, but you would need enough manpower to observe and report on police activities, establish patterns. Which, I'm sure, an organized group of criminals will do anyway.

Re:One 'problem' (1)

JordanL (886154) | more than 3 years ago | (#37114184)

Assuming that the statistics themselves create police patterns that are repeatable.

Re:One 'problem' (1)

kheldan (1460303) | more than 3 years ago | (#37114336)

The police patterns are going to be based on historical criminal patterns, which will by design make police patterns predictable -- and game-able. That's my theory, anyway.

Re:One 'problem' (1)

DavidShor (928926) | more than 2 years ago | (#37114758)

The algorithm would be dynamic though, so crimes being reported somewhere else would shift police. Could be useful for a short period of time though, provided that you have a giant data gathering apparatus.

Re:One 'problem' (1)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | more than 2 years ago | (#37114896)

You are not necessarily immune to local cops just because you have someone in the department. You just are mostly immune--in many departments, informant X would not help significantly if cop Y happened to see you commit a violent felony, for example.

Re:One 'problem' (3, Insightful)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 3 years ago | (#37113900)

They already have to schedule where the cops will and won't be. If we could afford to have cops everywhere all the time, there would be no need for this tech. The only difference made by this technology is that the cops will now be positioned more intelligently. It's like how fielders in baseball shift based on the batter's spray chart. It doesn't guarantee that they'll be where the ball goes, but it does tilt the odds a bit more in their favor.

Re:One 'problem' (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 3 years ago | (#37114044)

How about simply hiring more cops and getting some to get out of their car and actually walk their beat?

Re:One 'problem' (2, Interesting)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 3 years ago | (#37114096)

We have a nation unwilling to raise taxes above historic lows, with one party trying to push taxes even lower. We're being forced to lay off cops by the thousands. Hiring enough to properly cover cities isn't an option. Technology that helps that be a bit more efficient is welcome.

Re:One 'problem' (2, Insightful)

bipbop (1144919) | more than 2 years ago | (#37114612)

Or we could reduce crime by making all victimless crimes (i.e. most crimes) legal. Then we wouldn't need so many cops.

Re:One 'problem' (1)

DavidShor (928926) | more than 2 years ago | (#37114764)

This isn't about finding potheads...

Re:One 'problem' (1)

schwit1 (797399) | more than 2 years ago | (#37114798)

Why should taxpayers agree to pay more with the incredible waste that's already taking place?

Re:One 'problem' (1)

grantek (979387) | more than 3 years ago | (#37113986)

What I can't get my head around is the concept of modifying the system by observing it (or just plain modifying the input to a predictive system).
So if you correctly identify area X as a potential hotspot, and send police there, it's a success if you prevent crime. But then that spot becomes less of a hotspot so you may send the police to other areas. Do you then just lapse into a cycle of entering and leaving an area as crime increases and decreases?

Re:One 'problem' (1)

kheldan (1460303) | more than 3 years ago | (#37114118)

As you say, not your common street thug, but yes, wouldn't a smarter group of criminals, knowing this system is in place, work out a way to game the system and get the cops to concentrate somewhere well away from where they actually plan on committing crimes?

Re:One 'problem' (1)

nospam007 (722110) | more than 2 years ago | (#37114732)

There's an app for that.

Re:One 'problem' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37114874)

You're acting like they're going up against Dr. Evil. These are not genius criminals writing programs to predict where the cops are, if they were that smart they'd be making money legally by starting another Enron.

Chick getting arrested... (1, Funny)

BadPirate (1572721) | more than 3 years ago | (#37113590)

Chick getting arrested in the picture for the article reeks of Santa Cruz. Makes me want to yell at her to get a job.

Re:Chick getting arrested... (1)

Windows Breaker G4 (939734) | more than 3 years ago | (#37113700)

I so wish I had mod points so I could mod you up for funny. That's so true!

Not really... (2)

bashibazouk (582054) | more than 3 years ago | (#37113728)

Trustafarians don't need jobs. Lives possibly but not jobs.

Yeah, anyone who grew up there.... (2)

way2trivial (601132) | more than 3 years ago | (#37114144)

in high school, you find out about the womens rights topless parade.

and you go.. once.. then discover the disturbing truth about 98% of the women willing to march topless.

Next step: (1, Interesting)

cmv1087 (2426970) | more than 3 years ago | (#37113594)

Precogs! [wikipedia.org]

Re:Next step: (2)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 3 years ago | (#37113714)

Then gangs will employ anti-precogs [wikipedia.org] .

Kind of Interesting (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37113604)

It is kind of interesting on one level because it doesn't violate anyone's civil rights nor do anything odious. That much said, I am no fan of proactive policing. Proactive policing usually means law abiding citizens get harassed for walking through a "known" crime area even though they have no criminal intent. And please spare me the tired old line that only criminals go through bad areas and if you are in a bad area you must be up to something. Having been in law enforcement myself, cops are really rarely out to help which is why they call it "law enforcement" versus "peace officer." If you want proactive policing, hire private security.

Re:Kind of Interesting (1)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 3 years ago | (#37113954)

It doesn't intrinsically violate someone's civil rights but what about feedback loops?

If someone commits a crime in your neighborhood and it gets more policing then the policing will catch more criminals and by extension increase policing. Rinse and repeat until it reaches equilibrium.

For instance it would suck if your street through ticket based feedback became a speed trap and you had no choice but to go through it every day.

Re:Kind of Interesting (3, Interesting)

shadowrat (1069614) | more than 3 years ago | (#37114206)

If i live in a neighborhood that has a lot of crime, I'd like the police to come and catch lots of criminals. I like the sight of cops walking the beat around my block.

I'd also welcome a speed trap right outside my front door. Speeding on the highway is ok within reason. 10 - 15 over is probably fine. but a residential neighborhood is another matter entirely. We've got kids playing and people backing out of driveways.

Re:Kind of Interesting (1)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 2 years ago | (#37114752)

If there *actually* is crime there above average that's one thing. But simply *finding* crime in one area because of greater patrolling isn't necessarily confirming the prediction's effectiveness.

It's the same argument as profiling. If you search an African American and find drugs on them and then decide that it means African Americans have more drugs on them you'll find an excuse to search more African Americans and find more drugs. At some point you're only searching dark skinned people and only finding drugs on them.

Prejudices sometimes are based on real data and sometimes are just self-reinforcing biases without any basis in reality. I'm not saying that African Americans do or do not have more drugs in such an example but it's easy for a feedback loop to result in selective enforcement.

Is it a case where one group is committing more crimes or where one group is being more closely watched?

Re:Kind of Interesting (1)

CamoCoatJoe (972244) | more than 3 years ago | (#37114512)

what about feedback loops?

They could track where officers spend their time, and normalize the crime rate stats against that.

Re:Kind of Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37115032)

For instance it would suck if your street through ticket based feedback became a speed trap and you had no choice but to go through it every day.

It only sucks for you if you're an idiot who thinks going 40 MPH through a residential street that children frequently play in is a good idea.

My prediction (4, Interesting)

spazdor (902907) | more than 3 years ago | (#37113608)

Anything which replaces officer "hunches" with something more probabilistically sound* is fine by me.

*given the very low predictive value of their hunches and the high potential for 'hunches' to obfuscate prejudice or patterns of harassment in their investigations("my gut told me hassling this poor neighbourhood for the eighth time this month might turn up some crimes"), a dice roll would be sound enough for my purposes. Can you come up with an even more accurate model than pure randomness? bonus!

Re:My prediction (1)

dougmc (70836) | more than 3 years ago | (#37114064)

Anything which replaces officer "hunches" with something more probabilistically sound* is fine by me.

I have a "hunch" that this black man over here is about to commit a crime ...

"Hunches" very often lead to profiling. Unfortunately, profiling is fairly effective -- it's just really, really unfair to those who are profiled and yet innocent.

Re:My prediction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37114266)

I bet the scientists & law enforcement pigs who designed it said: "After years of racial profiling (god bless Patriot Act 1 and 2), combined with the location of criminal acts, we came to the conclusion that there is such a thing as the predictability of stupidity. The rest was very simple, we used a Bayesian Network to model our findings!"

Ya it sounds like a solid idea (3, Interesting)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 3 years ago | (#37114370)

Police departments already tried to do this, as noted with the hunch thing. The cops would go around and show presence in areas to try and deter crime (they also do things like park their cars in mall parking lots when they do paperwork). Well and good but of course it is all based on what humans feel is correct. while there's some validity to that since we do notice patterns, better to have a computer work it out, if possible.

Supposing the algorithm is tuned well, it could really do good. The patrols will go in areas where they are most needed. Also presumably a good model that is given new data daily (as this one is) will notice when things change and thus change patrols. Humans may be much slower to react.

Have to see what the actual stats are on it, but I think it could be a real win long term for law enforcement.

Re:My prediction (1)

Mr.Ziggy (536666) | more than 3 years ago | (#37114452)

Self fulfilling prophesy?

The presence of police looking for crime in a neighborhood may lead naturally to more arrests. It's not uncommon for police patrolling a neighborhood to have a "quota" for contacts: pulling over vehicles with expired registration, traffic stops, loitering, etc. On any given street corner, in 30 minutes a police officer can almost always perform a couple traffic stops.

Re:My prediction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37114968)

But as they patrol the same area more often crime will eventually go down in that area. It's like hunters hunting the same place every day, eventually there will be less deer there. They feed this information into the computer and it spits out the next area where crime might start occurring. Software has been doing this with stocks and consumer purchases for years, it's sounds amazing but it's really what humans already do, we take past experiences and use them to predict outcomes, but when police do it it's called profiling because sometimes it's racially motivated. This program takes race out of the equation.

Now all we need is for it to target the criminals (1)

mrmeval (662166) | more than 3 years ago | (#37113618)

before they commit the crime.

Re:Now all we need is for it to target the crimina (1)

SomePgmr (2021234) | more than 3 years ago | (#37113674)

I think we call that, "intent". ;)

Re:Now all we need is for it to target the crimina (1)

mrmeval (662166) | more than 2 years ago | (#37114970)

*squeeekily* erases that from the dictionary of jurisprudence and schedules anyone who disagrees with retroactive abortions!

Re:Now all we need is for it to target the crimina (1)

TWX (665546) | more than 3 years ago | (#37113686)

Somehow I don't think you'd get any successful prosecutions if you did that. Additionally, you'd discredit any possible hot-spot monitoring program for the same reasons.

This only works if you let the perpetrator actually become a perpetrator. If you stop them before they've provided evidence of an intent to commit or evidence in the commission, you'll get thrown out of court, and if you do it way too much and catch too much public attention, you'll have other law enforcement entities investigating you, probably for civil rights violations.

Re:Now all we need is for it to target the crimina (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37113800)

Keep in mind this is Santa Cruz where they at least used to allow vagrants to urinate on the sidewalks.

My way of looking at this is that they are more likely intending to *DETER* criminal activity by having law enforcement patrol through known hotspots with the intention of lowering arrests while not having to increase the number of officers patrolling the beat. There's two methods to deterring crime: prosecution and prevention. The latter should be preferred over the former in all but the most heinous of crimes.

Re:Now all we need is for it to target the crimina (1)

mrmeval (662166) | more than 2 years ago | (#37114950)

Blasphemer! Infidel! YOU are the criminal! DIE!

Re:Now all we need is for it to target the crimina (0)

tg123 (1409503) | more than 3 years ago | (#37113768)

Now all we need is for it to target the criminals

before they commit the crime.

What ever happened to innocent till proven guilty? There not criminals even if they have a "record" until they have committed a crime.

Re:Now all we need is for it to target the crimina (1)

Jeremi (14640) | more than 3 years ago | (#37113994)

What ever happened to innocent till proven guilty?

Still a basis of modern law, AFAIK. But that doesn't mean the police can't keep an eye on people they have reason to believe are likely to break the law... at least when those people are out in public.

There not criminals even if they have a "record" until they have committed a crime.

From Mirriam-Webster: Criminal (noun): one who has committed a crime.

If a person has a "record" (we'll assume for the moment they were justly convicted), then they are a criminal, because they have committed a crime.

Re:Now all we need is for it to target the crimina (1)

repapetilto (1219852) | more than 3 years ago | (#37114274)

I'm sure you've committed multiple crimes today

Re:Now all we need is for it to target the crimina (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37114360)

Yes, but there's a difference between "being a criminal" and "being a criminal due for prosecution". It's not a crime to "be a criminal".

A person who committed a crime, served their time, and is now free is a "criminal" by your dictionary definition, but is a law-abiding, free citizen by the law's definition, until such time as they choose to commit another crime.

Re:Now all we need is for it to target the crimina (-1)

mrmeval (662166) | more than 2 years ago | (#37115012)

You poor sissified constitutionalistic dogma spewing cretin! DIE!

Re:Now all we need is for it to target the crimina (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#37114298)

So do you think we should investigate based on exit polls or will the morning after the election be soon enough?

Sometimes being there doesn't help. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37113624)

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2015923589_whitecentershooting17m.html [nwsource.com]

The police were already here for this one. They were just one block away. And they didn't feel any collars after the gun went off.

I guess it could have been a lot worse if the police were nowhere near...

SC Pre-Cogz (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37113642)

"No, they haven't harnessed a group of pre-cogs..."

Having grown up in Santa Cruz, I'm a little surprised.

niace (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37113678)

set out the taze bot in these areas.

Hello, Police? Are you sitting down? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37113684)

...Good! I wish to report a robbery.

Wiggum: [bored] A robbery, right. Thanks for the report. [hangs up]
                That's _another_ one, Lou...723 Evergreen Terrace.
                  [Looks at a map with the robbery locations marked on it]
                Well, there doesn't seem to be any pattern yet, but if I take
                this one and move it here...and I move these over here...hello!
                It _almost_ looks like an arrow!
Lou: Hey, look, Chief: it's pointing right at this police station.
Wiggum: Let's get out of here!

Gaming the system (3, Funny)

kwiqsilver (585008) | more than 3 years ago | (#37113730)

So how many small crimes would you have to commit in other areas to reduce the police coverage in your targeted area before you commit the big crime at the real target?

Ooh! Did I just write the plot for Oceans N+1?

Hacking the system (1)

TiggertheMad (556308) | more than 3 years ago | (#37113840)

So how many small crimes would you have to commit in other areas to reduce the police coverage in your targeted area before you commit the big crime at the real target?

wouldn't it just be easier to hack into the system and see where it is directing officers, and go break the law away from them? Or better yet, feed the computer false info, so it predicts crimes in areas you want the police to be when you are doing your big heist.

It's a Unix system...I KNOW this! (3, Funny)

adamofgreyskull (640712) | more than 3 years ago | (#37113934)

Yeah man! We just need to hack the Gibson and reverse the polarity on the mainframe firewall in order to drop a logic bomb through the backdoor. Alternatively, paying street-kids to commit petty thefts in areas away from your target area is much much simpler than "hack into the system" and/or "feed the computer false info".

Re:Gaming the system (3)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 3 years ago | (#37113860)

Enough that you'd leave a trail of evidence a mile wide before you even got to the big one. If you really, really want to commit a crime, do the big one first, and then be a model citizen forever after. Repeat offenders eventually get caught.

Alternatively, pursue a career in finance and/or politics. You know what they say... the best way to rob a bank is to own it.

Re:Gaming the system (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37114492)

I believe you mean "Ocean's 11+n".

Scam Magnet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37113740)

There's been a lot of scam artists in the crime and terrorism prediction business. One has to be careful. They get slick fast-talkers who convince not-so-bright managers, who are often poorly-educated ex-cops, that they have a wiz-bang contraption. They often use doctored data from other agencies they've allegedly tested it on.

Re:Scam Magnet (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#37113818)

Likely what's happening here. Who in their right mind thinks that crime follows the same patterns as earthquakes, and who in their right mind thinks we've ever predicted an earthquake, anyway?

Re:Scam Magnet (2)

adamofgreyskull (640712) | more than 3 years ago | (#37113968)

Ken Ring [3news.co.nz] does. Using the moooooon! He also thinks [sillybeliefs.com] he can predict long term weather patterns using the moon.

Great Idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37113792)

This is actually not a security theater thing.

Nonetheless, it'd be pretty bad if the info got leaked. Imagine you're planning a heist.... I'd rather rob a bank on some hidden corner noone ever robbed than one that got hit last week and now everybody is on full alert.

Maybe the info could go a step further, and get you the data where people robbed and didn't get caught. Or banks where nobody ever got shot during a heist, for whatever reason.

Actually, I think I that info could be more valuable to crooks than to cops.

Every cop's dream (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37113804)

Ah ha! Let's arrest the minorities before the crimes happen this time!

Ambulances in the UK (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37113832)

Have been doing this for years. Sending out ambulances to areas at certain times.

Re:Ambulances in the UK (1)

adamofgreyskull (640712) | more than 3 years ago | (#37114000)

Indeed. I also heard a story that they often park up at McDonalds drive-thru carparks because, they argued, that they're usually positioned in ideal locations, between population-centres. Don't know how true that is. It's certainly the excuse I'd come up with if I kept being sighted at McDonalds when I should be on duty...

Unintended consequences. (0)

PeanutButterBreath (1224570) | more than 3 years ago | (#37113846)

“The worst-case scenario is that it doesn’t work and we’re no worse off”

No, the worse case scenario is that criminality adapts and becomes not only harder to combat because criminals are motivated to think outside of the box, but also harder to avoid (i.e. by avoiding high-crime areas because criminals now know to cover larger areas). In this scenario, crime may go down slightly as the less resourceful criminals get swept up, but crime also becomes a more widespread problem as criminals attempt to avoid the expected patterns.

Re:Unintended consequences. (4, Insightful)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 3 years ago | (#37114054)

People are really bad at being random. I'm sure many criminals already think they're picking random targets.

Re:Unintended consequences. (0)

PeanutButterBreath (1224570) | more than 3 years ago | (#37114214)

People are really bad at being random. I'm sure many criminals already think they're picking random targets.

Evading expected patterns does not require randomness.

Re:Unintended consequences. (1)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 3 years ago | (#37114394)

You assume the average criminal is going to know what the policemen's daily patrol routes will be. If they have access to that knowledge, then why aren't the already using it? All that's changing here is how the routes are set.

Re:Unintended consequences. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37114846)

They don't need to know the patrol routes at all. All they need to know is that there's a system, and to check very carefully for police presence before doing anything. See a cop? Do nothing; leave the area; try again some other time and/or place. Eventually the area won't be a "hot spot" anymore and will be left alone, and then it'll be open pickings again. And as long as it is a hot spot, you know that some other place, somewhere, isn't, and has no significant police presence.

Re:Unintended consequences. (1)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 2 years ago | (#37114990)

How is that different from what they are able to do now? Check for cops before committing a crime. Whether the cops are there because of an algorithm or by random chance is irrelevant.

Re:Unintended consequences. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37114222)

Your "worst case scenario" applies to every single method of policing that could ever be developed. Also, criminals for the most part are not people known for their ability to think outside the box.

Self-defeating? (1)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 3 years ago | (#37113852)

I wonder if they've looked at predicting how this will play out with the new program in place -- they have the basic problem that they're affecting what they're observing, and thus will change what will happen.

If the algorithms predict crimes in certain areas, you'll end up with officers in the area, likely preventing a crime before it even happens. That is, the potential criminal will notice the police presence and decide its not a good time. Thus there would be some feedback from the prediction method back onto itself.

I can think of three ways it could go:
1. Predictable "waves" that roll across the city
2. Predictable but chaotic patterns reminiscent of a complex cellular automata or fractal
3. The software nullifies itself.

Anyone have any other thoughts or know if they've studied this problem?

Re:Self-defeating? (1)

jeffrey.endres (1630883) | more than 3 years ago | (#37114016)

The problem would be how much weight is given to the 8 years of historical data for a system environment that no longer applies. Probably what would happen is that there would be a flattening or evening of the crime statistics for various suburbs.

A rose by any other name... (1)

turing_m (1030530) | more than 3 years ago | (#37114196)

SELECT grid_id FROM streets WHERE streetname LIKE 'Martin L%';

Re:A rose by any other name... (2)

maeglin (23145) | more than 2 years ago | (#37114578)

SELECT grid_id FROM streets WHERE streetname LIKE 'Martin L%';

Damn! How did you know I was going to knck over that 7-Eleven on Martin Landau Boulevard!?

Re:Self-defeating? (1)

adamofgreyskull (640712) | more than 3 years ago | (#37114198)

That is, the potential criminal will notice the police presence and decide its not a good time. Thus there would be some feedback from the prediction method back onto itself.

Or the criminals don't notice the police presence and get caught in the act, reinforcing the prediction?

If it works for the stock market... (1)

Estanislao Martnez (203477) | more than 3 years ago | (#37113872)

In other news, when it comes to choosing mutual funds, past performance is a great predictor of future returns!

Heisenberg would have something to say about this (1)

NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) | more than 3 years ago | (#37113910)

I don't mean to go quantum physics on police work, but this is slashdot. As soon as the police insert themselves into the equation, the social dynamics will change and eventually invalidate their predictions. It will take a while, especially when compared to the orbit of an electron, but it will happen. If they are good, their model will adapt, but it may not work as well in such a dynamic feedback loop.

Re:Heisenberg would have something to say about th (2)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 3 years ago | (#37114034)

Just FYI, that's not the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. You're thinking of wave function collapse, in which the act of measuring a particle determines its state. Heisenberg uncertainty is a mathematical proof that shows that the uncertainty in a particle's location and the uncertainty of its momentum have a non-zero product. It also applies to other pairs of properties, such as energy and time.

People get the two confused all the time, probably because the one that's more useful to talk about doesn't have a cool sounding name (that I know of).

Re:Heisenberg would have something to say about th (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 3 years ago | (#37114038)

Urban campers will just take their thieving further from their camp sights once they realize they are bringing heat down on themselves.

Until then the cops have a statistical homeless camp locator.

Re:Heisenberg would have something to say about th (1)

Jeremi (14640) | more than 3 years ago | (#37114142)

As soon as the police insert themselves into the equation, the social dynamics will change and eventually invalidate their predictions.

Hopefully the form of the changes will be fewer people committing crimes, because it's harder to get away with crimes after the program is in place.

Remember, the police system doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to be effective enough to deter your average potential criminal. It's not like people have an an infinitely large incentive to commit crimes at all costs; they choose to commit a crime, or not, based largely on risk and cost-benefit analysis.

Next on Action News, your crime weather report! (2)

dirtydog (51697) | more than 3 years ago | (#37113950)

Thanks Jean and Fred (cue fake smiles and laughs all around)...

Well today we sure did have some isolated crimestorms dotted around the metro with scattered crimebursts in the outlying areas. Your forecast for tomorrow is a 40% chance of crime in the downtown area with a peak of 80% occurring around 4th and Vine. Out in the suburbs, we're looking at a 10% chance of domestic disputes, 40% chance of mom scoring some weed from the high school pimp, and about an 80% chance of teenage drinking as we head toward the weekend. This is all about normal for this time of year, so get out there and don't forget your umbrella! ...and the forecasts will be just as accurate as the regular weather...

got that backwards (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37114022)

So we can project the future of crime. Great. Now let's project it's past, and fix the causes.

I think we're getting a little confused here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37114056)

This only works assuming that you can correlate the past with the future; this is highly unlikely. Although crime is generally not uniformly spread over spacetime, or even space or time individually, the autocorrelation function with itself over all time is unlikely to yield anything useful. Unless you're lucky -- like you might be on a hunch.

It seems that all this program does is say "gee, this place had a couple gangbangers caught on Tuesday. Maybe on Wednesday, the others are smart enough to try a different shitty area of town."

Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37114128)

I'm a person who's very skeptical of the police; the nature of the job these days breeds a culture that is very much in opposition to their stated mission. Anyone who disdainfully refers to the citizens of his town as "civilians" is likely a traitor, to us and to the enormous responsibility and latitude we give them. In short, I think they're mostly dirty pigs with a chip on the shoulder, plus a minority who actually deserve to be called "officer" - who are some of the bravest, most decent people in the world. Not many of them stay that way, though.

That's just the disclaimer leading up to this: This could be a wonderful thing if they don't abuse it (I know, I know). IF they're really looking to post extra patrols in places where old ladies are commonly mugged at a certain hour, or in front of a bar where brawls frequently pour out into the street, or even (though I am anti-prohibition altogether) on a block where there's a lot of meth being sold.

Of course, this is going to be just as useful to them when they're dealing with a bunch of geeks who want to protest their shutdown of cellphone service/twitter/etc...

Self Confirming Bias concern (0)

JumperCable (673155) | more than 3 years ago | (#37114270)

So now that officers are going out to the top ten hot spots more often, there will probably be more arrests in those areas. As this new data gets fed into the computer system, it will reinforce and magnify certain preexisting selection criteria.

The computer analysis will always be confirmed to be correct.

Re:Self Confirming Bias concern (1)

BBTaeKwonDo (1540945) | more than 2 years ago | (#37114652)

Not necessarily. The model will presumably incorporate crime reported by citizens, not just violations and arrests reported by police officers. The weighting may be different depending on who reported the crime, the severity of the crime, etc. A typical officer-generated arrest for, say, weapons possession should get a different weight than a more severe crime.

Something more useful would be ... (0)

joelsanda (619660) | more than 3 years ago | (#37114410)

predicting white collar crime on Wall Street. Cops the world over do this already - it's why you don't see cops cruising suburbs but you do see them on those streets where you can spend $50 and get high and laid in 20 minutes. I'd love to see them police Wall Street this way, though. That would change instantly change my opinion on minimum sentencing :-)

Two words... (1)

defaria (741527) | more than 3 years ago | (#37114484)

Minority Report!

I proudly live in SC (1)

drfreak (303147) | more than 2 years ago | (#37114586)

and totally get it now that I've read this. I got pulled over by a Sheriff last month who was three cars ahead of me and pulled off the road to get in front of my truck. I hadn't broken any laws and the Cop told me he pulled me over because I have a full beard and fitted a description of someone he was looking for.

The Officer ran my info and came back telling me I was clean. He then asked if he could take my picture in case he found the perp he was looking for. Being a stand-up citizen I agreed and let him take my picture. I then told him "I hope you find your guy" and left the scene.

I've never been pulled over in this county with such a bullshit excuse but complied because the Officer was cordial and I wanted to support him in his quest because where I live has a lot of transients going back and forth.

I wonder now.. Did I get profiled by his computer, or his Officer's "hunch"?

earthquake aftershock prediction? (2)

grouchomarxist (127479) | more than 2 years ago | (#37114590)

The article doesn't go into it, but is the earthquake aftershock prediction actually any good? I haven't heard about it and the article doesn't mention anything about the accuracy.

Totally Reasonable (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#37114634)

As long as they're targeting times and places, not people (individuals or groups), this is totally reasonable. In small towns with townie cops on the beat for years, the cops know where and when the crime "hotspots" are. But they're subjective, and are easily turned into just harassing people (and the neighborhoods they live or hang out in). Indeed, bad cops say that's what they're doing, when they're really just racists or settling some old grudge (often against totally different people), or just on a power trip - sweating kids at the local makeout spot, or busting harmless potheads.

But if there's statistical fact directing the police to places and times that actually do have higher crime rates, that's totally legit. Those are places and times that need more policing. And doing it scientifically means replacing the corrupt selection of pressure points with targets appropriate to the need.

The key to keeping the cops honest here is opening the selection system for review. Probably not simply public access to either the specific rules, process, data or target schedule, because that would undo the useful self-organized pattern recognized by police into new patterns criminals adapt to evade the pattern recognition. But the system and its operation should be reviewed by an independent group. Which should be judges, because sending cops somewhere without probable cause but rather probable correlation , is closely related to the search and seizure warrants that require judges to be convinced of probable cause to make them reasonable. If not, then it won't take long for a defendant to convince a judge that the cops singled them out without probable cause, either by some kind of association profiling or just a personal dislike. Which will get their case thrown out, and likely others - that were legit.

Nothing knew here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37114648)

It's called community policing and has been around for years. My former employer was providing this data in the form of daily report to be discussed during roll call - that was 6 years ago at least.

Maybe adding some predictive analysis will help...maybe just monitoring SMS transmissions and social web sites would be more effective - especially if you have someone on the inside who is getting those messages. Even more effective would be sending deceptive messages to those groups to DIRECT them to where the police are.

Even if this is accurate... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37114660)

It doesn't seem like a good way to generate revenue. Why would any police department want this?

SCO? (1)

hawkeyeMI (412577) | more than 2 years ago | (#37114940)

So is this the Santa Cruz Operation?
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