Armed with high-tech software and years of crime data, Miami police believe they will be able to stop crimes by predicting when and where they will occur, reports the Miami Herald. It sounds like something out of a science fiction novel, but the department is adopting a system called HunchLab that produces maps showing small areas where specific crimes are likely to be committed during shifts. The probability program is a geographical version of “predictive policing” software, which more departments are using, even if, in the words of one cop, it's “kind of scary.” Similar algorithm-based programs have been credited with lowering crime rates in other cities, and some South Florida departments have adopted their own systems.
The Miami department is funding the implementation of HunchLab and other software programs with a $600,000 federal grant from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance to encourage smart policing tactics. The city plans to sign a $120,000 contract with Florida International University to have Rob Guerette, an associate professor of criminal justice, study the department's program and run tests ahead of its launch. Police want to use HunchLab mostly to tackle robberies, auto thefts and home burglaries, crimes in which the department has clearance rates about half the national average. With the program, officers or supervisors will be able to focus their attention on areas where software models tell them that data show there is a high probability that crime will occur.