Police Channel ‘Minority Report’ To Predict Future Crime Outbreaks

Ever heard of "predictive policing?" Your local police department might be savvy to the term. A company called PredPol is making a lot of money from its predictive policing software, which feeds historical crime data to a proprietary algorithm that then predicts the next dozen or so locations that are likely to see crime activity during an officer's upcoming shift.

"Using only three data points – past type, place and time of crime and a unique algorithm based on criminal behavior patterns, PredPol’s powerful software provides each law enforcement agency with customized crime predictions for the places and times that crimes are most likely to occur. PredPol pinpoints small areas, depicted in 500 feet by 500 feet boxes on maps – that are automatically generated for each shift of each day," PredPol explains.

Police Car

According to Forbes, police departments pony up anywhere from $10,000 to $150,000 a year for these reports. While crime is a dynamic thing -- no two days are exactly the same -- PredPol boasts some impressive results and statistics. One of the claims is that patrol officers who spend just 5-15 percent of their shift in the designated boxes on the map, they'll end up stopping more crime than by using their own instincts.

That doesn't mean PredPol is looking to replace an officer's instincts, the software is simply showing where crime is likely to occur. And it's working, According to PredPol, LAPD's Foothill division saw a 20 percent drop in predicted crimes year-over-year from January 2013-2014. Even more impressive are the results in Alhambra, CA, in which the local police department noted a 32 percent drop in burglaries and a 20 percent drop in vehicle theft since using the software in January 2013.

These are just some of the examples that seem to suggest PredPol's method is the real deal. At present, almost 60 police departments are using it, though PredPol would like to cover the majority of large metro areas in the U.S. by the end of 2015.

The challenge in getting there is the potential backlash from citizens who see this playing out like Minority Report. This isn't sci-fi stuff, though, but perhaps a more efficient method of policing. Or not. One thing that's been brought up is that some officers may have acted differently because they knew they'd been given a new resource, hence why the numbers look so good.

PredPol isn't concerned, however, and is pushing for further independent reviews of its software.