In Santa Cruz, Calif., police are using an advanced computer algorithm—not a trio of well-hydrated psychics—to predict when and where crimes will be committed. And the computer is kicking ass and taking names.
Using a computer program designed by George Mohler, a 29-year-old assistant professor of mathematics at Santa Clara University, the police have made five arrests and lowered the city's crime rate significantly. According to SCPD analyst Zach Friend—who brought Mohler in to design the algorithm (based on computations designed to predict aftershocks after earthquakes) and gave him years' worth of data—the program will only get more accurate as more information is fed into it:
"The overall model is based on the belief that crime is not random ... So with enough data points you could predict where and when it will happen."
As Talking Points Memo puts it:
The heart of the program is the belief that criminals often commit a second or third crime in the same location and the same time as a first successful crime. For example, if a burglar is successful breaking into a home at 2 p.m. in a certain neighborhood because no one is home, the criminal will use that experience to do it again to another house in the same neighborhood around the same time.
We're rather far away from cops getting a "red ball" and going out to stop a murder, but we're getting closer to the future every day.