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Police and Crime Prediction Software - It's Pretty Good If You Keep the Results Secret

July 03, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 178

Thanks to ESRI and some brilliant criminologists we now have the awesome crime predictive software, that can computationally predict where crimes are most likely to occur based on the time of day and day of the week in any given zone or grid on the map in any city. In fact, the software is so good now that is scary, and it has really helped in the scheduling of police forces, which increases efficiency and saves money for the taxpayer. Therefore police departments are able to cover a larger area with fewer people.

At that point they can designate more people to do community policing, visibility patrols, and therefore actually prevent crime, not only by catching the criminals that are doing those crimes, but also preventing anyone from attempting to try. However, I wonder if we are getting at the end of the rope for efficiency, and coming across the law of diminishing returns, which could reverberate counter intuitively and perhaps even give the advantage the criminals. Let me explain.

There was an interesting article in the MIT Technology Review Blog not long ago titled; "L.A. Cops Embrace Crime-Predicting Algorithm - Burglary reports dropped after officers began taking patrol orders from computers," by David Talbot, posted on July 2, 2012 which stated;

"A recent study suggests that computers could be better than seasoned police analysts at predicting when and where crime will strike next in a busy city. Software tested in Los Angeles was twice as good as human analysts at predicting where burglaries and car break-ins might happen, according to a company deploying the technology."

No, this isn't new technology, but it is still interesting enough to show up on the MIT Blog some ten years after its invention. It turns out it does help prevent crime if the information derived is used correctly, as the blogger also noted. Still, what happens when the criminals get a hold of this technology too, and they log in all the crime reports, then they can predict where the police will be to prevent the crime, so they go to the other areas, where crime is not predicted, then they commit a crime or break-in thus, creating an anomaly and unfortunately a successful heist.

Perhaps you can see my argument here, and don't think that groups like the drug cartels don't have the money to buy the same software, or hire computer scientists that have gone astray into areas that are gray. After all, there are also hackers that make quite a bit of money with their computer skills. Just as in the escalation of war technologies, we will probably see the same thing with these innovative policing technologies, as they are now over a decade old.

So therefore, I asked the question once more; what happens when the criminals have the same software, and know where the police are looking?

Sun Tzu reminds us that the General should look where his opponent isn't looking, and if you will recall that was the famous line used in the Hollywood movie "Battleship" 2012, as it helped the main character defeat the aliens as they tried to communicate after hijacking the radio telescopes on the mountain peaks of Hawaii. By the way, have you ever played electronic Battleship - what if your opponent knew your next move? Indeed I hope you will please consider all this and think on it.

Lance Winslow has launched a new provocative series of eBooks on Future Police Tech. Lance Winslow is a retired Founder of a Nationwide Franchise Chain, and now runs the Online Think Tank;

Source: EzineArticles
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