Computer Program Predicts Crime Locations, Offenses

Dennis Faas's picture

Do you remember the 2002 movie Minority Report, in which police used a synthesized computer system to predict crimes before they happened? Flash forward 9 years later in the year 2011 and detecting pre-crime is now a reality.

Police officers in Santa Cruz, California have had tremendous success in combating crime this past month. Their good fortune can be attributed to the launch of a new computer program that is able to predict key locations for criminal activity and deploy officers before any actual wrongdoing occurs.

The computer program, which is updated daily, generates predictions about which areas (and which time periods) are at greatest risk for future crimes by analyzing and detecting patterns in previous data. The system is based on models designed for predicting aftershocks derived from earthquakes. (Source:

Program Proves Successful Early On

Few can argue with the results. Santa Cruz burglaries decreased 27 per cent in the month of July, compared to 2010 statistics.

On one particular day last month, two women were arrested after having been seen peering into cars in a downtown parking garage.

One woman was later found to have an outstanding warrant, while the other possessed illegal narcotics. Officers would likely not have been present at the scene to make the arrests had it not been for the computer program predicting that car burglaries were especially likely on that day within the one-square-block area where the parking garage is located.

Predictive Policing Combats Funding Issues

The computer program (which speaks to the term "predictive policing") is a win-win situation for law enforcement agencies in the United States who have continued to battle funding issues.

In Santa Cruz alone, distress calls are up 30 per cent compared to 11 years ago in the year 2000, but 20 per cent fewer staff members are available to receive them. (Source:

The complete accuracy of the program has yet to be seen, however, with formal evaluations expected to take place after six months.

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