Predictive Policing: Preventing Crime with Data and Analytics

The IBM Center for the Business of Government has released its newest report entitled “Predictive Policing: Preventing Crime with Data and Analytics.” The report describes a new wave of law enforcement capability, predictive policing, that relies on data and innovative software to predict where crime is likely to occur and where suspects are likely to be located.

Just as retail giants such as Netflix and Walmart use analytic techniques for predicting consumer behavior, law enforcement agencies across the nation are seeking to utilize the same techniques to predict and prevent criminal behavior. Predictive techniques include analysis of space, analysis of time and space, and analysis of social networks. The report identifies three case studies where these new techniques have already been implemented, Santa Cruz, California, Baltimore County, Maryland, and Richmond, Virginia, and comments on the experience of these districts in using predictive policing as a new and effective tool to combat crime.

In order for police officers nationwide to follow in the footsteps of the districts listed above and become effective “data detectives,” the report outlines seven major recommendations for municipalities and agencies that are considering launching a predictive policing program:

  1. Do it.
  2. Treat predictive policing as an addition to, not a substitute for, traditional policing methods.
  3. Avoid top-down implementation.
  4. Keep the software accessible to officers on the beat.
  5. Consider the geographic and demographic nature of the jurisdiction.
  6. Collect accurate and timely data.
  7. Designate leaders committed to the use of analytics.

“While this report focuses on the use of predictive techniques and tools for preventing crime in local communities, these methods can apply to other policy arenas as well. […] Efforts to use predictive ana­lytics can be seen in the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s initiative to predict and prevent homelessness, and in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s initiative to identify and mitigate communities vulnerable to natural disasters. These techniques are also being applied to reduce tax fraud and improve services in national parks.”

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