A little under a year ago, the LAPD starting using a new strategy to tackle crime called "predictive policing" and before people truly knew what it was, you had a bunch of folks comparing this to "Minority Report," like they'd have a bunch of bald-headed pre-cogs telling the cops a crime's about to happen.
Well, it's almost like that (though no pre-cogs). The LAPD has a computer program that analyzes all the crimes that happens in a certain areas, how often the crimes happen, the types of crimes, etc. They use this data to predict if another crime is likely to occur and in which area of neighborhood it's likely to happen.
So based on that, the LAPD makes decisions on where to focus some of their attention.
The cops respond as they normally would to crimes in progress but when they're free, they go back to these areas and show their presence; to make sure the neighborhood sees them hanging around. They also actively try to talk to more folks -- business owners, citizens, visitors -- so it can be part of a normal routine to see them actively engaged in the future of the community.
According to the Economist, one neighborhood saw a 12% reduction in crime -- more than any other neighborhoods studied during this time they were looking into predictive policing.
Now, the LAPD is expanding it's use. But they're going one step further.
The LAPD sent out a note: "To further increase the effectiveness of Predictive Policing we are asking the public to spend any free time that you may have in these areas too. You can simply walk with a neighbor, exercise, or walk your dog in these areas and your presence alone can assist in deterring would be criminals from committing crime in your neighborhood."
A writer in the Atlantic wrote, "I'd change the route I take on dog walks to help out. And if lots of my neighbors do the same, it'll be a sign of civic health. We're all responsible for safeguarding our neighborhoods."
I'm not comfortable with this part of the story. I think predictive policing is a tremendous tool -- one we should use in Washington (particularly parts of Seattle, like Pioneer Square, where we know crime is a probable, but also throughout all our neighborhoods so we can see if there are any areas with potential crime that we're not paying attention to enough). But this idea of sending citizens into areas we know crime will likely happen seems irresponsible to me. I'd rather us send the cops there, have them get the crime under control, then send citizens. If the crime rate is high, I'm not sending a mom and her young son to go for a stroll down the street -- they'll be the targets of crime. I will send an officer to stroll the streets, get the criminal element out of the neighborhood, then send the citizens out there so they can help keep it as safe as the officers made it.
What about you? Do you think this police is a good idea for areas in Washington? Where should they put this attention? And would you be comfortable walking around a neighborhood with a high probability of future crime? Leave your comments below. -Jason Rantz