In Santa Cruz, police are using computer models to predict when and where crime is likely to occur. They’re using algorithms that are related to software that predicts aftershocks.
The current, real world test of the software involves generating a map of the city areas most likely to be burglarized, the time of day they are most likely to get hit, and deploying personnel accordingly. The software is recalibrated every day when burglaries from the previous day are added to the dataset.
The police officers arrived at the parking garage in downtown Santa Cruz and spotted two women behaving suspiciously. No crime had been committed, but peering through the windows of the parked cars was sketchy enough. The officers questioned the women: one had outstanding warrants; the other was in possession of illegal drugs.
What’s strange about this scenario is that no one had called the cops. In fact, the cops didn’t even know that the women would be there, just that the probability of a crime being committed at that location, at that time of day, was especially high. In one of the first cases of ‘predictive policing,’ law enforcement were able to calculate where the criminals would be and arrest them before the crime could be committed.