Using Analytics to Take a Bite Out of Crime

Michael Vizard

There’s an old saying about there never being a cop around when you need one. By using analytics, however, cops are increasingly being moved around before anyone ever realizes they are needed somewhere.

IBM has been working with a slew of local police departments, the latest being Charleston, S.C., to deploy analytics applications that identify likely hotspots of criminal activity based on a variety of data sources that include everything from the number of parolees in a particular area to changes in the weather.

As it turns out, not only do individuals repeat offenses, but groups of criminals tend to have recognizable patterns as well. According to Gary Nestler, IBM subject matter lead for global public safety, by employing a range of IBM predictive analytics technologies, law enforcement agencies can now be a whole lot more proactive about preventing crimes from happening in the first place, versus always having to respond after the crime has been committed. That approach, adds Nestler, means that a smaller police force can be more effectively deployed by utilizing consequential analysis techniques.

IBM last year acquired i2, a provider of analytics software called CopLink that includes a database that is widely used to identify patterns of criminal behavior, to bolster its portfolio of offerings in this space. Cities in North America that are now also taking advantage of a range of IBM analytics software in their police departments now include New York, Rochester, Las Vegas, Memphis, Los Angeles and Vancouver.

Fortunately, we’re still a long way from movies such as "Minority Report" where people can be arrested for merely thinking about committing a crime. But we are reaching the point where criminals will have to think a lot harder about not getting caught, which usually winds being the best deterrent of all.

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