Better Than a Crystal Ball

Predictive policing software predicts the future so that agencies can increase police presence and prevent crime.

By Ronnie Garrett | Police Magazine

Can you predict the future? Some agencies are finding that you can by using tools that enable them to perform predictive policing, which is defined as the use of mathematical, predictive, and analytical techniques in law enforcement to identify and disrupt criminal activity.

This computerized analysis of crime data from records management systems (RMS), computer-aided dispatch (CAD) systems, and other police databases is poised to revolutionize crime fighting. In some ways it already has; take a look at what some agencies have achieved using today’s tech tools.

Spillman Technologies

California’s Garden Grove Police Department rolled out a fully integrated computer software system from Spillman Technologies, and the integrated system gives everyone from line officers to the general public detailed information about crime in real time.

The software, which has only been in place for a relatively short time, has already helped identify hot spots and trends. “The software can be used for predictive policing,” says Capt. Travis Whitman. “We had an auto theft where we used this hot spot analysis to identify an auto theft trend.” That information led to an investigation, which ultimately ended in an arrest.

Whitman says the software is “no crystal ball,” but stresses it helps the agency make informed choices for deploying resources.

The interesting thing is that this tool is designed for the patrol officer, not the crime analyst, according to Matt Jolly, product manager of Spillman Technologies. “We have seen a push to put the tools [traditionally only used by analysts] into the hands of more people within departments,” he says.

Spillman partnered with Bear Analytics, which was later acquired by LexisNexis, to create this tool. Officers log in to the cloud-based system with a username and password, and once they do, they can look at incident and call information. They also can export and analyze incident and call data and look for hot spots. “They can look at changes in crime visually,” Jolly says. “They can see spikes of activity over time in certain areas and things like that, and to some degree, they can predict where crime will occur in the future.

“Aside from the crime mapping and analytics capability, the tool provides users with a nice array of reports that they can build themselves and look at crime over time, i.e., where crime is occurring most, at what times of day, and what types of crime,” he continues. “They can distribute these reports to all agency personnel to help facilitate communication and build patrol and enforcement activities around them.”

Agencies also can use this tool to see crimes in their neighboring jurisdictions if those jurisdictions use LexisNexis. “This helps a lot in crime analysis because criminals don’t just operate in one area. Burglars don’t just burglarize in one jurisdiction. This allows agencies to see trends across jurisdictions too,” Jolly says.

Users can also dig deeper into the data to see the MOs of particular crimes, patterns, and things like that, which Jolly says “historically has been the purview of the trained crime analyst. But this tool is so easy to use that even patrol officers can get in there and use it.”

Read the full story here.