The Los Angeles Police Department is currently using a central processor called the Real-Time Analysis and Critical Response Division, which is located in downtown LA. This division has a wall covered in video screens that are more than 10 meters wide. Crime analysts and technologists sit in front of these screens that have multiple news broadcasts playing at the same time, a real-time earthquake map and several security cameras focused on the iconic Hollywood sign. In the center is a large satellite map that displays recent arrests around the city.
Captain John Romero heads the division and uses a smaller screen to zoom in on a 500-square-foot area that has recently seen a spike in crime. A new algorithm used by the division suggests that more crime will be occurring in the near future in the same area. The algorithm performs what many refer to as predictive policing, which uses years of crime reports to identify areas that have a high probability for certain types of crimes. It then places red boxes on maps of the city, which are streamed directly to patrol cars.
“Burglars tend to be territorial, so once they find a neighborhood where they get good stuff, they come back again and again,” Romero said. “And that assists the algorithm in placing the boxes.”
The technology was developed in part by P. Jeffrey Brantigham, an anthropology professor at UCLA. The predictive policing system has been licensed to dozens of police departments and is being branded as PredPol.
The LAPD is using the algorithm to focus on burglary, vehicle break-ins and car theft, which have accounted for more than half of the crimes recorded in the city last year. Atlanta is currently using PredPol to look out for robberies, and Seattle police are focusing on gun violence. Kent police in England are using the technology to predict drug crimes and robberies.
Learn more about how the LAPD uses PredPol in the video below.