Los Angeles police are aiming to beat suspects to the scene of a crime by using computers to predict where trouble might occur, the Associated Press reports. The Los Angeles Police Department is the largest agency to embrace an experiment known as “predictive policing,” which crunches data to determine where to send officers to thwart would-be thieves and burglars. It could prove to be a model for other cash-strapped law enforcement agencies, but there are concerns could lead to unlawful stops and searches that violate Fourth Amendment protections.
In California’s San Fernando Valley, where the program was launched last year, officers are seeing double-digit drops in burglaries and other property crimes. The program has turned enough in-house skeptics into believers that there are plans to roll it out citywide by next summer. “We have prevented hundreds and hundreds of people coming home and seeing their homes robbed,” said police Capt. Sean Malinowski. The software generates prediction boxes — as small as 500 square feet — on a patrol map. When officers have spare time, they are told to “go in the box.”