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Predictive Policing

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4 March 2014


Summary

  • Article Source: Walter L. Perry, Brian McInnis, Carter C. Price, Susan C. Smith, John S. Hollywood, Predictive Policing; The Role of Crime Forecasting in Law Enforcement Operations, 2013 [1].

Introduction

Predictive policing is the application of analytical techniques—particularly quantitative techniques—to identify likely targets for police intervention and prevent crime or solve past crimes by making statistical predictions. Several predictive policing methods are currently in use in law enforcement agencies across the United States, and much has been written about their effectiveness. Another term used to describe the use of analytic techniques to identify likely targets is forecasting. Although there is a difference between prediction and forecasting, for the purposes of this guide, we use them interchangeably.

CrimeView

Objectives and Approach

Predictive methods allow police to work more proactively with limited resources. The objective of these methods is to develop effective strategies that will prevent crime or make investigation efforts more effective. However, it must be understood at all levels that applying predictive policing methods is not equivalent to finding a crystal ball. For a policing strategy to be considered effective, it must produce tangible results. The objective of this research was to develop a reference guide for departments interested in predictive policing, providing assessments of both the most promising technical tools for making predictions and the most promising tactical approaches for acting on them. More broadly, this guide is intended to put predictive policing in the context of other modern, proactive policing measures.

We approached this task in three ways:

  1. We conducted a literature search of academic papers, vendor tool presentations, and recent presentations at conferences, drawing lessons from similar predictive techniques used in counterinsurgency and counter–improvised explosive devices operations and related research by the U.S. Department of Defense.
  2. We reviewed a number of cases of departments using predictive policing techniques that appear promising.
  3. We developed a taxonomy of the different types of operational applications that can be supported using predictive policing.

In many cases, we were able to illustrate how predictive technologies are being used to support police operations through a set of examples and case studies. Although some of the methods are promising and describe the current state of field, they are still more academic than practical. Consequently, this guide can also be viewed as a profile of the state of the art of predictive policing practices and the development of new predictive technologies. As such, it can be considered a baseline document.

References

[1] Walter L. Perry, Brian McInnis, Carter C. Price, Susan C. Smith, John S. Hollywood, Predictive Policing; The Role of Crime Forecasting in Law Enforcement Operations, 2013.


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