What would happen if we could predict crime before it happened?
The hottest buzz phrase in law enforcement right now is, “Predictive Policing.” Ever since these words came out of Bill Brattons’ mouth while he testified in front of Congress on September 24, 2009 we have seen a great deal of interest in this idea. While the idea is not entirely new and the definition is still being worked over the positive aspect of all of this discussion is that police departments are more and more realizing that they can have a huge impact on crime.
It was only recently that we were collectively throwing our hands up into the air and blaming high crime rates on things like poverty, poor education and the erosion of family values. While all of these things may contribute to crime, crime still comes down to having a victim, an offender and an opportunity. Now we are looking at the very real possibility of a paradigm shift in law enforcement whereby all police and community leaders start applying analysis and crime prevention strategies to the problems of crime. With predictive policing we are looking at the three components of the crime triangle. We are applying analytical techniques to learn about where victims are and when they are being victimized; where and when the opportunities are occurring and we are deeply studying the habits of our offenders, both known and unknown.
The fact is that we can make calculated predictions on when and where crime will happen and who has a higher chance of being a victim. With this information we can develop strategies to keep the three components of the crime triangle from coming together and make sure less people suffer.
I predict that Predictive Policing will become a normal part of even the smallest law enforcement agencies well into the future.
How does Open Source Policing fit into this future? Open Source software will provide free or affordable analytical tools to smaller departments so they can hop on the bandwagon. Free Web 2.0 technology will provide channels to share data between departments and to train practitioners in the techniques of analysis and crime prevention. This free technology will also allow police to educate the public and to allow everyone and anyone to see where and when crime is happening. Finally, the public’s fears of a “Minority Report” type agency arresting people before they commit crimes can be put at ease with education, transparency and openness.
There is a lot going on in Predictive Policing right now and this is an exciting time in law enforcement. Notice the links to Web 2.0 sites on the DOJ website: USDOJ Blog entry on Predictive Policing