There’s no doubt about it, law enforcement in the 21st century is all about technology. Sure, police work still requires brave, smart, dedicated people to get the job done, but the tools they use to fight crime today are much different than they were even a generation ago.
Case in point, more and more large agencies are turning to Big Data to help them keep the peace. The Los Angeles police department increasingly uses technology that can not only inform patrol officers where crime is most likely to be committed, but it can also track ex-cons who are believed more likely to commit them. It may seem like Minority Report stuff, but the cops are already reporting that the new information is helping them reduce crime rates, even in the roughest neighborhoods.
The system is a fairly pedestrian application of Big Data basics, part data collecting and part modern data crunching using state of the art computing technology. All of it still begins with street level intelligence gathering and basic police work, but now the cops have somewhere to put all the information that used to go nowhere. Cops gather massive excesses of data each day just patrolling the beat. Now they can feed that information into data analysis computers and put it to good use.
Computers take that information and help the cops learn exactly where crime is most likely to take place as well as which crimes are likely to occur there. Then they know where to best allocate their resources. Some have advanced concerns that these applications unfairly target previous offenders, ostensibly accusing them of further crimes before they are committed. Again, more Minority Report comparisons.
Here’s the thing…whatever the concerns, and some are legitimate, crime is measurably down in the areas being tracked. Let me say that again…the “areas” being targeted. Not just people…places are being looked at. And both of these steps have led to better, safer neighborhoods.
David A. Steinberg is CEO of Zeta Global.