Police Use Analytics to Deploy Officers

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Most applications of predictive analytics are in the private sector, but police in Memphis are getting big results from using the technology to fight crime.

Several years ago, police there began developing a program called Blue CRUSH with assistance from the University of Memphis' criminology department.

It uses predictive analytics software from IBM's SPSS division to crunch information about what types of crimes are occurring, and where and when they're happening. Police use the resulting models to dispatch more resources to the neighborhoods that appear to need the most help. Blue CRUSH also uses a mapping program to highlight crime patterns.

The software models have dramatically changed policing in Memphis, said John Williams, manager of the police department's crime analyst unit. "This is more of a proactive tool than reacting after crimes have occurred. This pretty much puts [officers] in the area at the time they're being committed."

One Blue CRUSH operation in January focused on the city's Hollywood-Springdale area. It netted more than 50 arrests, and crime there has fallen 36.8%.

Overall, the Memphis Police Department has seen an 863% return on its investment and cut serious crimes by 15.8% since 2006, according to a study by Nucleus Research Inc.

Blue CRUSH is also boosting police officers' morale, because they're making more "quality arrests" of people who are repeat offenders, Williams said.

This story was originally published in Computerworld's print edition. It was adapted from an earlier version that first ran on Computerworld.com.

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