Santa Cruz, California police are testing prototype software that predicts where crimes may be committed in the next few days. The deputy chief of police thinks that it may help police patrol areas that aren't hotbeds of shady activity. Santa Clara University mathematician George Mohler developed the algorithm. From New Scientist:
Some crimes follow potentially predictable patterns. One burglary, for example, tends to trigger others nearby in the next few days, rather like aftershocks from an earthquake. In 2010, Mohler's team turned equations used to predict aftershocks into the basis for a program that uses the dates and times of reported crimes to predict when and where the "after crimes" will occur.
On average the program predicted the location and time of 25 per cent of actual burglaries that occurred on any particular day in an area of Los Angeles in 2004 and 2005, using just the data on burglaries that had occurred before that day…
Mohler and his colleagues will conduct a controlled experiment with the Los Angeles police department later this year. Officers will run the prediction algorithms as they do in Santa Cruz, but patrol only half of the locations it flags. They will then compare crime levels in the two groups.
"Cops on the trail of crimes that haven't happened" (New Scientist)
Santa Cruz Experimental Predictive Policing Software (UC Santa Cruz)