Crime analysis just got more high-tech in Morgan Hill, as the city is one of the first in Santa Clara County to implement new predictive policing software that allows law enforcement to identify and focus resources on geographical “hotspots” where patterns of crime have occurred.
The city is using the program known as PredPol to assist with crime analysis, in line with the police department’s strategy to fight crime with “intelligence led policing,” which in turn allows the department to make the most efficient use of the department’s dwindling resources, according to MHPD Sgt. Shane Palsgrove.
Developed by George Mohler of Santa Clara University and researchers from UCLA, the software program allows police staff to enter inputs such as previous crime reports, including the time and location of each incident, Palsgrove said. The software is based in part on sociological studies of criminal behavior, including the insight that burglars often revisit the same areas.
“PredPol is a valuable tool that allows us to do more with less, focusing our attention on areas where crimes are likely to occur,” MHPD Chief David Swing said. “Officers will be able to take the next step after identifying hotspots and partner with the community to find solutions to the problems.”
The intricate system gives small cities like Morgan Hill access to complex, in-depth analytic capabilities previously only available to large cities or businesses, Palsgrove said.
The system produces, for each patrol shift, printed maps speckled with red boxes, 500 feet on each side, suggesting where property crimes - specifically burglaries and car break-ins and thefts - are statistically more likely to happen, Palsgrove said. Patterns detected over a period of several years, as well as recent clusters, figure in the algorithm, and the boxes are recalibrated for each patrol shift based on the timeliest data.
“The challenge, and what is really hard from the point of view of the crime analyst, is how do you balance crime patterns on different time scales. That's where the algorithm has the edge, sifting through years of data,” says Jeff Brantingham, a company cofounder and UCLA anthropologist.
PredPol is a software company based in Santa Cruz, California, that builds on computer science and anthropological research carried out at Santa Clara University and the University of California, Los Angeles, Palsgrove added.
The only other agencies that are currently deploying in the region are Santa Cruz and Salinas, and those agencies have seen a noticeable reduction in targeted crimes, Palsgrove said.