Predictive Policing: The Future of Law Enforcement?by Beth PearsallLaw enforcement explores ways to anticipate and prevent crime. F or years, businesses have In November 2009, the National used data analysis to anticipate Institute of Justice, in partner- market conditions or industry ship with the Bureau of Justice trends and drive sales strategies. Assistance and the Los Angeles Police Department, held a Predictive Walmart, for example, learned Policing Symposium to discuss this through analysis that when a major emerging idea and its impact on the weather event is in the forecast, future of policing. Researchers, law demand for three items rises: duct enforcement officers, crime ana- tape, bottled water and strawberry lysts and scientists gathered in Los Pop-Tarts. Armed with this informa- Angeles for three days to explore the tion, stores in the affected areas policy implications, privacy issues can ensure their shelves are fully and technology of predictive policing. stocked to meet customer needs. What is Predictive Policing? Police can use a similar data analy- sis to help make their work more Predictive policing, in essence, is efficient. The idea is being called taking data from disparate sources, “predictive policing,” and some in analyzing them and then using the field believe it has the poten- results to anticipate, prevent tial to transform law enforcement and respond more effectively by enabling police to anticipate and to future crime. prevent crime instead of simply responding to it.16
NIJ Jour Nal / Issue No. 266Predictive policing entails becoming Moreover, doing them better remains Here are two examples of predictiveless reactive. “The predictive vision critical given the current economic policing at work:moves law enforcement from focus- climate.ing on what happened to focusing on Reducing Random Gunfire inwhat will happen and how to effec- George Gascón, chief of police Richmond. Every New Year’stively deploy resources in front of for the San Francisco Police Eve, Richmond, Va., would experi-crime, thereby changing outcomes,” Department, noted that predictive ence an increase in random gunfire.writes Charlie Beck, chief of the policing is the perfect tool to help Police began looking at data gatheredLos Angeles Police Department.1 departments become more efficient over the years, and based on that as budgets continue to be reduced. information, they were able to antici-Beck told participants that perhaps “With predictive policing, we have pate the time, location and naturethe greatest benefit to predictive the tools to put cops at the right of future incidents. On New Year’spolicing is the discovery of new place at the right time or bring other Eve 2003, Richmond police placedor previously unknown patterns services to impact crime, and we officers at those locations to preventand trends. Just as Walmart found can do so with less,” he said. crime and respond more rapidly.increased demand for strawberry The result was a 47 percent decreasePop-Tarts preceding major weather in random gunfire and a 246 per-events, LAPD has found its ownsubtle patterns when examining Predictive policing cent increase in weapons seized. The department saved $15,000 indata that have helped the depart-ment accurately anticipate and is not meant to replace personnel costs.prevent crime. tried-and-true police Connecting Burglaries and Code Violations in Arlington,Predictive policing is not meantto replace tried-and-true police techniques. It builds on Texas. The Arlington, Texas, Police Department used data on residentialtechniques, symposium speakersexplained. Instead, it borrows the essential elements burglaries to identify hot spots and then compared these locations tofrom the principles of problem- of all policing strategies areas with code violations. Accordingoriented policing, community to Chief Theron Bowman, officerspolicing, evidence-based policing, for the greater good. found that every unit increase ofintelligence-led policing and other physical decay resulted in almostproven policing models. six more residential burglaries in the city. Thus, neighborhoods with“This is a very important next step So What Does it Look Like greater physical decay could expectto move forward in the evolution- in the field? greater increases in residentialary process of our profession,” burglaries. Arlington subsequentlysaid Bill Bratton, former LAPD “There is no predictive policing in developed a formula to help iden-chief and chairman of Altegrity Risk a box,” explained Colleen McCue, tify characteristics of these “fragileInternational. “We are building on president and CEO of MC2 Solutions, neighborhoods.” The police depart-the essential elements of all policing which provides professional services ment and other city agencies nowstrategies for the greater good.” in predictive analytics. “Let the prob- work more efficiently in the neigh- lem guide the solution,” she advised. borhoods to help prevent crime.John Morgan, director of NIJ’sOffice of Science and Technology, Current analytic tools and tech- niques like hot spots, data mining, But is This new?added, “This is a framework tohelp us organize policing as an crime mapping, geospatial prediction Some participants questionedinformation-intensive business and social network analysis can be whether predictive policing was,in an information age. Predictive applied to a broad range of criminal in fact, a new model. They arguedpolicing is not meant to replace any justice problems. For instance, they that good crime analysts have beenother model of policing,” he said. can be used to anticipate localized practicing predictive policing for“Instead, it enables us to do these crime spikes, inform city and neigh- more than 40 years.things better.” borhood planning, and aid in police management decisions. Predictive Policing: The Future of Law Enforcement? | 17
N I J J o u rN a l / I s s u e N o . 2 6 6“Are we doing anything new or inno-vative with this data or are we just niJ funds Predictive Policing Demonstration initiativedoing it better and quicker?” askedChief Tom Casady of the Lincoln,Neb., Police Department.Casady argued that the idea is not N IJ has launched a demonstration initiative to develop, test and evaluate predictive policing in a real-world, real-time context. The Institute awarded planning grants to seven law enforcement agencies.new. “It is a coalescing of interre-lated police strategies and tactics NIJ has also funded a team from the RAND Corp. to evaluate thethat were already around, like projects. The evaluation is designed to address questions such asintelligence-led policing and prob- what works, what does not and what is promising in predictive policing.lem solving. This just brings themall under the umbrella of predictive For more information on the initiative, see http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/policing,” he said. “What is new is nij/topics/law-enforcement/predictive-policing/symposium/discussion-the tremendous infusion of data,” demonstrations.htm.Casady added.Referencing the Richmond example,he explained, “We knew there wereshootings on New Year’s Eve, and handle information the right way,” policing to put privacy, civil rights andwe knew where they were happen- said Thomas O’Reilly, senior policy civil liberties in the forefront from theing. So if we could pinpoint the time, advisor at the justice department’s outset,” said Russell Porter, direc-we could put more police in those Bureau of Justice Assistance. “As tor of the State of Iowa Intelligenceareas. This is pretty basic stuff,” he we move into predictive policing, Fusion Center.said, “and we have been doing this nothing should be secret. We shouldfor years.” Casady said the real ques- engage privacy advocates and com- Participants stressed the importancetion the field should be asking is how munity leaders from the outset to of setting up a thorough privacyto take this to a new level: How do explain the program and get their policy, training personnel to use itwe use information to stimulate ideas and input to alleviate their properly, enforcing accountabilitydifferent interventions? concerns.” and continually refining the policy. Policies should also include whatCommunity involvement Sean Malinowski, a lieutenant with information can be shared with the LAPD, assured participants that other agencies.is Critical predictive policing does not denyParticipants agreed that transpar- civil rights. “Police are not arresting “Transparency, auditing and dueency and community involvement people on the probability that they diligence are critical to developingare important. will commit a crime,” he said. “Police a process that is trustworthy, pro- still must have probable cause.” In tects privacy and produces good“Community trust is huge as addition, predictive policing methods outcomes,” said Joan McNamara,we move down this path,” Beck do not identify specific individuals; a commander in the Los Angelesexplained. “We need to be extremely instead, they anticipate particular Police Department.transparent. As we advance this times and locations where crimediscussion of how law enforcement is likely to occur.2 Bratton added, “If we do this right,will use information and how we tie if we do it constitutionally, collec-that information to officer deploy- Yet privacy and civil liberty issues tively and transparently, we canment, all of these discussions must are critically interrelated with lessen the concern. We can hearbe open.” predictive policing and must be the concerns and move forward, all addressed. “We have a solemn the while expanding and modifying“The community must have con- obligation and a strategic imperative and improving and continuing thatfidence that law enforcement will for the success of predictive path of discussion.”18 | Predictive Policing: The Future of Law Enforcement?
NIJ Jour Nal / Issue No. 266it is All About the Data data together, and approach it from a holistic perspective,” BowmanIn the end, the success of predictive said. “It is just as important to under-policing will all come down to how stand what we don’t know at thereliable it is, how different informa- local level.”tion sources are integrated and howall the data are analyzed. “We have the ability John Miller of the Office of the“Police departments collect great Director of National Intelligence to use information to suggested that the field also looksdata all the time,” said Craig Uchida, at “predictive perpetrating.” “We save lives, andpresident of Justice & Security must ask ourselves: What dataStrategies Inc, a company that helps sources have the bad guys pulled we need to use itlaw enforcement agencies in evalu-ating and addressing program needs. up? We are not the only ones looking at data,” he warned. constitutionally and“We just don’t know how reliable,valid and clean it is. We need to “It is so important to bring these data consistently,” Brattonoversee data collection to ensurethe data are clean.” warehouses and analytics together and to search and make them avail- said. “We are in aAlong with watching quality, police able so we can do our job,” Beck said. Malinowski added, “Analyzing position to save lives,departments also need to tap intothe wealth of nontraditional data all of this data will give decision- makers better information to make reduce injuries, improveavailable locally, such as medicaland code-compliance data. better decisions.” safety ... It doesn’t get“Predictive policing has another “We have the ability to use infor- any better than that.” mation to save lives, and we needlevel outside the walls of the police to use it constitutionally and consis-department,” Jim Bueermann, chief tently,” Bratton said. “We are in aof police in the Redlands, Calif., position to save lives, reduce injuries,Police Department, said. “It takes improve safety … It doesn’t get anya holistic approach — how do we better than that.”integrate health and school andland-use data?” Beth Pearsall is a freelance writer and“Part of the challenge is understand- frequent contributor to the NIJ Journal.ing what all the available data areand then finding a way to fuse thatdata, bring the people who use that NCJ 230414notes Check out the recap of the Predictive Policing Symposium1. Beck, C., and C. McCue, “Predictive on the NIJ Web site: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/topics/ Policing: What Can We Learn From Wal-Mart and Amazon About Fighting law-enforcement/predictive-policing/symposium/welcome.htm. Crime in a Recession?” The Police Chief 76 (11) (November 2009), http:// policechiefmagazine.org/magazine/index. cfm?fuseaction=display_arch&article_ id=1942&issue_id=112009. 2. Ibid. Predictive Policing: The Future of Law Enforcement? | 19