Remember the Tom Cruise and Colin Farrell movie, The Minority Report??? For those who don’t recall this movie it’s a science fiction thriller based in the year 2054 where Tom Cruise plays Captain John Anderton, the chief of the Washington, D.C. PreCrime police force. The movie’s other star, Colin Farrell, plays the Justice Department’s auditor in charge of evaluating the PreCrime unit’s strategy and tactics before the program goes nationwide. The PreCrime unit has been very successful having prevented any crime from being committed for over 6 years since its implementation apprehending criminals before they’ve committed their future crime based on what they call foreknowledge. In other words, this department has predictive insights into these future crimes allowing all in the community to sleep safe and sound knowing they’re being protected from the bad guys. (Look, I know there are multiple holes in this story (Think of the legality of a pre-crime arrest) but, it’s a movie, so you gotta seriously suspend your disbelief like in most movies.) Yes, I’m sure you’re thinking this is an extreme and unrealistic example of how predictive analytics can revolutionize the way things are done. Or, maybe this movie’s storyline isn’t that unrealistic???
Enter the Santa Cruz, California Police Department. Just like most police departments (and businesses for that matter) the Santa Cruz police department spends a majority of their time allocating their existing resources most effectively to produce the best bottom line results. These bottom lime results being fighting or preventing crime while protecting the safety of its community. Apart from identifying who the specific individuals are that will be committing these future crimes like was the case in the PreCrime unit in the movie, The Minority Report, the Santa Cruz Police Department is able to identify specific times and actual locations where crimes are most likely to be committed using their own set of predictive analytic capabilities. This allows them to proactively be there and wait for these crimes to unfold and swoop in before anyone or anything is put in harm’s way. They call it predictive policing which utilizes ‘Predictive Analytics’ to make better decisions about the future. Predictive analytics encompasses a variety of techniques from statistics, data mining and game theory that analyze current and historical facts to make predictions about future events – to identify patterns or likelihoods of afuture outcome – in this case, crime. Erica Goode of the New York Times says that, “Santa Cruz’s method (of predictive policing) is more sophisticated than most. Based on models for predicting aftershocks from earthquakes, it generates projections about which areas and windows of time are at highest risk for future crimes by analyzing and detecting patterns in years of past crime data. The projections are recalibrated daily, as new crimes occur and updated data is fed into the program.” Amazing.
Predictive policing is working so well that it’s being employed by other police departments around the nation. Besides it being an effective way to fight and prevent crime it’s a cost-effective and efficient way to leverage resources, especially in light of shrinking police departments trimmed by the global slowdown. Erica Goode goes on to say in her excellent article that, “efforts to systematically anticipate when and where crimes will occur are being tried out in several cities. The Chicago Police Department, for example, created a predictive analytics unit last year.”
Besides wanting to share this incredibly interesting story with you showing how far we’ve come as a society in leveraging data to make better decisions, I also wanted to use it as a way to illustrate how using predictive analytics to manage your organization’s resources (read make better decisions) based on knowing what the future will most likely look like applies to business and government just as well as in policing. Think about it. Why shouldn’t corporations employ a similar approach in how they run their businesses? And, Police departments aren’t stopping there. They’re now thinking about “Crime Forecasting” to understand future events to ensure they’re prepared for what this future will most likely require of them. The question is, where is your business on this predictive analytic path? Better, where is your competition?