In a reality-meets-sci-fi story, the New York Times reports today that several cities across the country are using computer programs to predict crime hotspots and send police to nab crook before anyone has broken the law.
The arrests were routine. Two women were taken into custody after they were discovered peering into cars in a downtown parking garage in Santa Cruz, Calif. One woman was found to have outstanding warrants; the other was carrying illegal drugs.
But the presence of the police officers in the garage that Friday afternoon in July was anything but ordinary: They were directed to the parking structure by a computer program that had predicted that car burglaries were especially likely there that day.
Sure it’s like the movie Minority Report but without the precogs. A computer program takes previous crime data, analyzes current outbreaks and with a little pixie dust, predicts where crimes are likely to happen at a future time.
Santa Cruz’s method is more sophisticated than most. Based on models for predicting aftershocks from earthquakes, it generates projections about which areas and windows of time are at highest risk for future crimes by analyzing and detecting patterns in years of past crime data. The projections are recalibrated daily, as new crimes occur and updated data is fed into the program.
On the day the women were arrested, for example, the program identified the approximately one-square-block area where the parking garage is situated as one of the highest-risk locations for car burglaries.
So my question is: how much of this “science” was derived from military analysis of insurgent networks and, on the flip side, how can something like this be useful in the COIN and CT environment? Seems to me it could work well with predicting IED emplacement, especially since we have about 10 years of data in Afghanistan to feed into a predictive and anticipatory model.
In this case, a tool like this could be used to emplace a sniper team over a route or run clearance in one area instead of another. In a COIN environment, we might be able to use this to predict insurgent “shadow government” takeovers and strong-arming, or predict infiltration routes from Pakistan and times of ingress.
Very intriguing … and we don’t need to maintain a team hairless psychics in pink ooze to do it.