New Age Policing: Past, Present, and Future

The future of policing always makes me think of the movie Minority Report, a movie that examines whether free will can exist if the future is set and known in advance. In the movie, Tom Cruise gets accused of a murder he hasn’t committed yet, and because of the technology used in the movie, is arrested.

Predictive policing is a buzzword these days. So what is Predicitive Policing and does it work?

Predictive Policing, also known as PREDPOL, is a police strategy created to solve crimes, prevent crimes, and predict where future crimes might happen. The main goal is to remove the opportunity to commit crime before it’s even there. Holy Minority Report, Batman!

I don’t believe our laws would ever let technology ever decide the fate of a person who hasn’t committed a crime yet. However, I do think technology has and will continue to helped deter crime. There are a series of features needed - data collection, software, police, and response i in order for PREDPOL predictions and analysis to occur.

First, data collection is vital. Crime types, times, details, date, time location. This data is need by the software to analyzes the data. The software creates reports on problem areas, when a crime might occur, how many thefts happened in one neighborhood. After reports are created, they're passed on to police officers. Officers use the information to determine when and where to make patrols. Finally, a response is needed. Both from the community and criminals. Do residents start reporting suspicious persons after a string of burglaries noted by the police? Does a police patrol deter a burglary from committing a burglary?

Computers can only do so much. “Proactive, assertive policing is effective, but if you don’t have the legitimacy, if you don’t have the trust of the community, you’re not going to get the information that you need to predict and prevent crimes." says William Bratton prior LAPD Chief of Police, NYPD Police Commissioner, and Boston Police Commissioner.

It’s important with PREDPOL that officers still harness relationships with residents. And although a computer may be able to predict the next house on the street to be burglarized, it doesn’t mean a criminal will burglarize the house. Informed residents can keep an eye out and create safer communities.

We’ve compiled a list of typical resources used in everyday policing that, in addition to futuristic strategies like PREDPOL, could make police more efficient in the future.

Past - The first 911 system was set up in the UK in the 1930’s. Before that, you had to dial the operator to get to police.
Present - Faster response times by using strategies like PREDPOL. If officers are already patrolling a known hotspot area, when the dispatcher receives a call for service for that area, response times are faster and more efficient.
Future - Adding technology onto past strategies. Maybe drones. Drones would give the dispatcher the ability to assess the area before an officer is sent. Seattle PD made an attempt at using drones, but the project was grounded after concerns with privacy issues.

Past - Dash cams. How many 'Wildest Police Chases' have you watched thanks to a dash cam? Dash cams were first installed around the 1980’s and used VHS tapes!
Present - Better quality picture and sound, smaller, and more reliable cameras in cars and on the body. And electronically recorded.
Future - Augmented reality or officer equipped with Google Glass while on patrol.

Past - The federal freedom of information act was passed in 1966 - less than 50 years ago!
Present - All states have FOIA acts giving residents the right to request public information.
Future - Public information is provided electronically, without having to make a request.

Parking Tickets
Past - Written paper tickets.
Present - Tablets, in car computers and print outs.
Future - Electronic tickets emailed directly to the violator and the ability to pay electronically via credit card. Many agencies have the electronic payment option, but it requires records managers to input a paper ticket into the system before payment can be made.

Past - Agencies used to solely rely on media outlets to get word out to the public.
Present - Enter the Internet. Social media. Websites. Email.
Future - Is this the future? It would be awesome to see more departments utilize social technology to keep residents informed.

Crime Analysis
Past - A number of strategies including Problem-oriented policing, community policing, evidence-based policing, data mining, crime mapping, intelligence-led policing, statistical analysis
Present - PREDPOL - a mixture of all policing strategies used in the past.
Future - Minority Report...ha, just kidding. N-Dex might be the future. It stands for ‘National Data Exchange’ and is a database run by the FBI that connects records of agencies Although it’s already in use, not every agency participates. In the future, I’d imagine all US agencies - city to city, county to county, state to state - would be connected through one system.

SpotCrime’s hope for the near future
Like most of government, public safety has trotted slowly behind commercial markets in developing and utilizing software and technology. Our hope for the future is that officers will be more technically educated and tech savvy. It would be great to see more departments developing technologies and software of their own. Not to mention it would be a lot cheaper.

It would also be great to see more connected residents. In a world where it’s easy to hide behind a computer screen, relationships are ever more important. However, for residents to keep an eye out, they have to know what to look for. Which leads to open data. Open up the crime data, encourage transparency and trust, and the result will be safer communities.


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