Police using technology to help predict crime

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - If police cruisers came with crystal balls, prevention could flip to prediction.

For Columbia police, a positive difference, essentially stopping crime before you ever become a victim.  It sounds like the makings of a science fiction movie. For Columbia police, it's reality.

"This predictive policing software is going to take us to the next level when it comes to the absence of crime in this city," said acting Columbia Police Chief Ruben Santiago.

WIS hit the streets to see how it works.  Officer Alex Broder showed us the laptop in his car. Using RAIDS, the current in car software, he can see where crime has occurred since March.

"The blue dots are robberies and the green cars are some type of auto break-in or vehicle theft," said Broder.
He can also distinguish between cold and hot spots when it comes to activity.

"In this about two block radius here you have a red zone and that's where teams and regional captains and the departments can focus their efforts," he said.

The new Predpol system will take that information and, using the tweaked algorithms to predict earthquake aftershocks, use criminals' habits to figure out where they might strike next.

"The criminals don't know regional line. They don't know city and county lines. They don't know the community lines," he said. "They have ideas of their own and they can go city wide."

Predpol gives officers a red box, predicting up to 500 feet where the next crime might occur, giving them an opportunity to be in the area before a criminal strikes instead of responding to crime.

"Those red squares on the maps are only effective if we have police officers in those squares," said Santiago."And so it's their job then to become the trained observers that they are."

Right now, it won't work for every crime. Homicides are more difficult to predict.

"Those crimes can sometimes be labeled as crime of passion or crimes of opportunity," said Santiago.

"The crimes specific to burglary, motor vehicle theft, larcenies, those are more the patterns we're going to see more successes or immediate successes with the Predpol software."

Los Angeles and Santa Cruz police have seen a reduction in crime of 12% and 27% respectively using Predpol.

Right now Columbia Police are integrating their information with the company's technology. The  information is expected to be in officers' patrol cars next week.

The company says the new technology will cost the city about the cost of a new officer with benefits.  Starting salary in Columbia is around $35,000.

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