Data-mining helps stop crime before it happens

A wave of sophisticated computing and mathematical analytics is quickly moving into the mainstream, fueled by the digitization of information, ever faster and cheaper computing, and the explosion of online networks and data collection.

And similar to the movie “Minority Report,” police departments are using the technology to predict where crimes might occur and stop them before they happen.  

Using software programs that sift through information the departments already collect, like “911” and police reports, but add new streams of data — about neighborhood demographics and payday schedules, for example, or about weather, traffic patterns and sports events — to try to predict where crimes might occur.

In Richmond, Va., the technology pointed to a high rate of robberies on paydays in Hispanic neighborhoods, where fewer people use banks and where customers leaving check-cashing stores were easy targets for robbers. Elsewhere, there were clusters of random-gunfire incidents at certain times of night. So extra police were deployed in those areas when crimes were predicted.

Data mining, says Jon M. Kleinberg, a computer scientist at Cornell University, is a “revolution in measurement” and the “introduction of computing and algorithmic processes into the social sciences in a big way.”

Source:  New York Times

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