Can police predict crimes?

Is it possible for police to predict where crimes will occur? Scientists at Santa Clara University think so.

They may not be able to predict exactly where and when a crime will happen, but the software they created uses actual data about crimes committed during one day and predicts the general area where crimes will occur the next. This has caught the attention of the Santa Cruz, Calif., Police Department, which has begun experimenting with the data. (Read about it here.)
The scientists say this is similar to studying earthquakes. No one can predict when or where a quake will happen, but it is possible predict aftershocks using mathematical models. In a similar way, burglars seldom strike only one house in a region. Gang shootings often lead to retaliatory shootings in a predictable location.
Police hope they can use the software to increase patrols in vulnerable places, perhaps reducing the likelihood of crime with their presence, or to respond quickly when trouble happens.
This may have a “Minority Report” feel to it, but it sounds like an intelligent way to distribute limited public resources.

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About the Author

Jay Evensen

Jay Evensen is the Senior Editorial Columnist for the Deseret News. He has 32 years of journalism experience covering politics and a variety of other assignments at news organizations ranging from United Press International in New York City to the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Deseret News, where he has worked since 1986. During that time, he has won numerous local, regional and national awards. Most recently, he was given the Cameron Duncan Media Award, given annually in Washington, D.C., by the advocacy group RESULTS, to the journalist judged to have done the most to further the cause of the world's poorest people.

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