There are many uses today for the insight of predictive analytics, from predicting weather patterns to predicting market trends. If we have the ability to use big data to predict patterns, shouldn’t we be looking beyond business uses and look at how predictive analytics can help us in our day to day lives? Can we use the power of predictive analytics to prevent things like violence and crime?
Law enforcement has been studying this question for a few years now, and has used the data to make critical changes.
In 2011, police in Los Angeles and Manchester used a computer algorithm to try to predict where crime would occur before it happened. These police wanted to know if by analyzing big data on crime, they would be able to spot patterns in the ways that the criminals behaved. If they could detect the patterns, they would be able to use their resources heavily in the areas where crime was predicted to happen again. This data includes publicly shared information combined with data from local authorities, social services and intelligence gathered by beat officers.
The human element and each individuals experience in policing is extremely needed, but if this worked, it would allow police to rely on a machine with direction rather than their gut decisions.
These trials in 2011 were a success, with significant falls in property crimes and burglaries. The results suggest that predictive policing models can help cut crimes where perpetrators exhibit predictable patterns of behavior.
Predictive analysis has the ability to identify hotspots for crime far more accurately. By targeting these hotspots and directing police patrol, resources are able to be used more efficiently and crime rates are likely to be reduced.
Predictive policing promises a new era of law enforcement, but some critics are concerned it may lead to an erosion of civil liberties. A few of the ethical dilemmas they are facing include victimization, displacement, privacy issues, and possibility of ignoring the root cause of the crimes. While there is a possibility for each of these, the benefits that a service like this could provide have the potential to outweigh the risks.
The data that police have at their fingertips is continuing to grow. Predictive analysis can now be used to spot any abnormalities, use police resources to their fullest potential and prevent future crime.