With analytics, police get smarter, even clairvoyant

Police in Charleston, S.C., are using analytics software to not only solve crimes more quickly but also to forecast patterns and prevent crimes.

The Charleston Police Department has brought in IBM predictive analytics software to better allocate its resources and identify criminal hot spots in an effort to prevent crime and increase public safety, city officials said.

Over the past five years, Charleston has worked to reduce crime through a variety of initiatives, including implementing a crime analysis system, increasing focused patrol strategies using weekly crime meetings to identify hot spots, and introducing new technology to capture and disseminate information quickly to enhance officer situational awareness and productivity.

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“Criminals continue to evolve, and so must we in order to keep pace and reduce the criminal activity that impacts Charleston residents and visitors,” Chief of Police Gregory Mullen said.

The CPD is applying predictive software that analyzes past and present crime records in seconds and evaluates incident and arrest patterns throughout the city.

By centralizing all the information the CPD has at its disposal, including analyzing past and present criminal data and patterns, the department will give its workforce of 400 police officers a more holistic view of where crime is trending and will allow the department to deploy officers to these areas to prevent crimes before they occur.

For example, burglaries often cluster in terms of time and location; the individuals committing these crimes tend to have predictable patterns, and incidents usually take place near their homes or familiar locations. In addition, property crimes are not displaceable crimes, which means the criminals won't simply move two miles to another location.

“Having worked with the IBM team to initiate the pilot project using the predictive analytics technology, we are already seeing the potential value from this approach,” Mullen said. “It will help us provide critical information to the officers in the field and will allow us to gain greater insight across operations to improve public safety.”

“Historically, police agencies focused on protecting the community by solving crimes quickly to serve as a deterrent to would-be criminals,” said Mark Cleverley, IBM global director of Public Safety Solutions.

“Technology has proven to be a force multiplier that is helping solve crimes more quickly and prevent them altogether, and to also improve the way citizens are being served and resources are allocated,” he said.

Charleston joins the ranks of cities such as New York City, Rochester, N.Y.; Las Vegas; Memphis; Los Angeles; Vancouver; and many others that are taking advantage of technology to establish Smarter Cities, IBM officials said.

IBM has more than 2,000 Smarter Cities engagements under way around the world, helping municipalities manage public services such as crime, emergency response, traffic and water systems more efficiently.


About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


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