Sgt. Joe Friday gets an upgrade

Marc Sanchez Jul 5, 2012

Police in the San Fernando Valley have a new secret weapon that’s helping them get the upper-hand on burglaries: algorithms. Software developed by PredProl predicts where break-ins will happen and alerts the cops about where to send patrol units. The theory goes that just by sending police to areas where crimes might be committed, crooks will back off. If a thief sees a police car rolling through the same block he’s on, he’s probably going to think twice about his next move.

From the MIT Technology Review:

whether the algorithm is right or wrong, it tends to reduce bureaucratic procedures and thus keep officers on the street, which by itself helps. Where police used to sit in daily meetings to plan where to patrol, they can now spend more time actually out on patrol, since the computer’s doing the planning. And if they do spook a would-be burglar into abandoning his plan, it means even more time on patrol, because the officer doesn’t have to leave his beat to process the suspect.

If PredProl is really interested in earning the favor of police departments across the country, maybe it could invent and distribute accompanying software that can predict when and where the freshest donuts can be found.

There’s a lot happening in the world.  Through it all, Marketplace is here for you. 

You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible. 

Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.