Computer Program Helps L.A. Police Identify Gang-Crime Suspects


A team of UCLA researchers has delved into the world of crime fighting, developing a computer program capable of pointing police to potential suspects when feuds between rival gangs erupt into violence, reports the Los Angeles Times. It is the latest contribution in the fast-emerging field of predictive policing — an area of study rooted in the notion that it is possible, through sophisticated computer analysis of information about previous crimes, to predict where and when crimes will occur or, in this case, to calculate the probability a certain gang committed a crime.

In the recent research, mathematicians devised an algorithm to crunch information the Los Angeles Police Department collected on more than 1,000 gang-related crimes and suspected gang crimes in an area that is home to more than two dozen active gangs. Often, a perceived or real affront by one gang to another can set off a spiral of retaliatory violence. The goal was to bring some mathematical order to this murky, shifting landscape in an area where rivalries and alliances between groups are difficult to track. The computer model the researchers built sifted through a decade’s worth of crime data in search of patterns and relationships between gangs undetectable to a person. From that analysis, the program was designed to identify which gangs were most likely involved in particular crimes. In a test, about 80% of the time, the computer calculations were able to identify the three gangs most likely to have committed a crime against a rival.

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