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How Predictive Analytics Is Revolutionising Public Safety

The art of discovering a crime before it's been committed

9Jan

In a previous issue of Big Data Innovation we examined how predictive analytics are helping police officers in America and the United Kingdom solve crimes more efficiently in their jurisdictions. In that article we looked primarily at the police force in Los Angeles, but the use of predictive analytics in crime solving is a far wider than that. For example, Lancaster, Pennsylvania cut crime by 42% in the last four years using analytics whilst bigger cities such as Memphis has seen crime reduce by 28%, saving the Memphis Police Department $7.2 million in the process.

The reduction in crime rates alone is a significant advantage, but when you consider the amount of money that's saved through improved budgeting and planning, the costs behind installing the system and training people to use it aren't that considerable.

If a police officer has the capacity to understand what's going on tomorrow, imagine the savings that they can make in terms of manpower and even seemingly more trivial things like witness statements. When you look at the array of cost savings that are possible, the millions of dollars that the Memphis Police Department saved don't even seem that impressive.

With more money to spend, public safety can only increase. There will be more police officers and more finance to spend on new equipment that assists public safety. With the methods used by criminals becoming more sophisticated all the time, the advancement of predictive analytics could be the key to solving issues as serious as terrorism. Currently, PredPol, the system used by the police in Atlanta, LA, Seattle and Kent, England has been used to target robberies, drug crimes, gang activity and gun crime by identifying 'crime hotspots'.

In LA, the professor of anthropology who helped to invent PredPol, the system that's being used in the Californian city, was quick to distance the system's likeness to the one seen in Minority Report, stating, 'Minority Report is about predicting who will commit a crime before they commit it. This is about predicting where and when crime is most likely to occur, not who will commit it'.

With any initiative that involves mass data collection, there will always be fear that it'll be too intrusive, but there's no doubt that predictive analytics has the capacity to help police forces around the world, as it's already been proved to do with the statistics mentioned above. It will be very interesting to see how the space delivers over the next year.

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