How to catch a thief… with analytics

By Kirtana Raja and Navneet Aujla

Predicting criminal activity is extremely important in today’s economy. In addition to the fact that police forces have been challenged in recent years by budget cuts, societal safety and security are important for economic vitality.

Crime has an adverse impact on economic development and society at large. It can lead to loss of sales, jobs and investments, as well as a decrease in overall competitiveness. In Mexico, for example, $9.6 billion in lost sales, jobs and investments has been attributed to urban crime and violence.

Overall, the Institute for Economics & Peace estimates that, worldwide, the costs associated with crime increased to $1.989 trillion in 2014—a $168 billion increase since 2008.

While there are many factors involved in crime reduction worldwide, it increasingly appears that analytics can play a major role in accelerating the decline in criminal activity—especially in developing economies where better policing was found to deliver twice the benefit as compared to mature economies.

Crime investigation analytics helps police solve crimes faster

While more information is available to law enforcement agencies than ever before, much of it is unstructured, creating more noise than useful leads. Crime investigation analytics, which uses a combination of predictive, visualization, statistical, text and geospatial analysis on a variety of data sources, is proving valuable in helping reveal important insights that are not readily obvious using traditional methods of investigation.

In Bengaluru, India, 100 million records are analyzed each day to help police more effectively fight crime. In the United States, the Miami-Dade (Florida) Police Department, which serves approximately 2 million people, uses analytics to help investigators identify potential suspects in minutes rather than days, which they say helps “save money, save resources and catch the offenders quicker.”

IBM-Public-Safety-Infographic
(Click to enlarge infographic) Learn more – ibm.com/ibmcai/public-safety

Hot-spot analysis helps reduce crime rates

One prevention-oriented type of analytics is “hot-spot” analysis, whereby areas of significant predicted criminal activity are pinpointed in a simple geographic map format, and ranked according to the likelihood of crime actually occurring.

Once these areas have been identified, law enforcement personnel can decide to deploy additional resources or craft a more targeted strategy to combat a specific crime. For example, it is possible that thieves might spot greater police presence—deployed to a hot-spot neighborhood in anticipation of a potential robbery spree—and be deterred from committing any crime.

Successes across leading police departments show that there is a correlation between hot-spot analysis and a reduction in crime rates. Police in Durham, North Carolina found that “20 percent of all ‘shots fired’ calls were coming from just 2 percent of the city’s entire land area.” Using that information, the department has been able to reduce violent crime by 39 percent.

Government Technology reported that the city of Vancouver (Canada) has seen “property crime rates drop city-wide per 1,000 residents by 24 percent, and violent crime rates decrease by nine percent from 2007 to 2011,” due in part to its ability to pinpoint hot spots and proactively deploy officers. Memphis (Tennessee) police also say that the ability to study crime history and predict how to effectively deploy officers has led to a reduction in both serious crime (30 percent) and violent crime (15 percent).

Mobile, cloud and social technologies aid law enforcement

It’s important to note that, in addition to analytics, cloud, mobile and social technologies are also giving law enforcement an upper hand when it comes to fighting crime.

Cloud solutions can provide an affordable approach for budget-crunched agencies of all sizes; even a small agency can benefit from crime investigation analytics, without incurring all the costs of running its own infrastructure.

Another benefit of cloud-based analytics is that agencies can access critical shared data across jurisdictions and state borders, thus widening their information net and leading to better informed criminal investigation departments. For example, IBM recently enabled law enforcement agencies to access one of the world’s largest networks of law enforcement data, comprising more than a billion shareable documents from the cloud.

Mobile apps can provide police officers and other first responders with urgent information as they rush to the scene. In its coverage of the Incident Aware app for the Apple Watch, TechRepublic wrote that “the best apps…..focus on providing urgent notifications direct to the wrist, without the need to pull out a phone.”

Finally, social media is being used by agencies to rapidly alert citizens about everything from crimes and terrorism to missing children and severe weather. It is also being used by investigators to gather real-time information from residents to help solve and close cases more quickly. There are numerous examples in recent years in the Middle East, United States and Europe.

Governments are constantly working to reduce crime and maintain economic vitality. Analytics, cloud, social and mobile technologies can help law enforcement agencies solve crimes faster, and more effectively direct resources toward preventing crime and addressing the root causes of violence. Through such efforts, society can begin to make long-term investments in the creation of a virtuous cycle of peace and economic prosperity.

Learn more about this public safety research.

 

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