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Columbia, SC next city to use Predictive Policing?

Columbia, SC Lawyers

Columbia, SCColumbia may soon be home to a new crime prevention tool.

PredPol, makers of a predictive policing program, pitched it to local authorities on Tuesday. The program is used to predict exactly when and where crime will occur. It can even tell the user what type of crime is about to be committed.

Representatives from PredPol, based out of Santa Cruz, Calif. made the presentation to the members of the Columbia City Council. The two PredPol representatives were also meeting privately with the Lexington and Richland County sheriff’s department. One of the presenters was former mayor of Santa Cruz who now works for the company. The other presenter, Donnie Fowler, is a Columbia native. Fowler is the son of Democratic politician, Don Fowler. The presentation invitation came from Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin.  Mayor Benjamin ran on the platform of crime reduction.

The program normally costs around $75,000. Fowler offered the program to officials for half the price. Fowler said the more departments who use the program in the Midlands, the cheaper the price would be. As of now, the money could come from Columbia Police Chief, Randy Scott’s budget. Council did not vote on whether or not to buy the software.

How it Works

PredPol uses IBM software to analyze crime data. PredPol then shows exactly when and where a crime may be committed. This helps direct law enforcement to the location and prevent crimes from being committed. The program works by alerting police officers of a certain type of crime that may be about to take place. The program then directs police to a certain block on a certain road. Police can then beef up patrol in the area to prevent the crime or other crimes from being committed.

This program uses an algorithm to determine when and where a crime will occur. Essentially the program is similar to those used to predict earthquakes and aftershocks. Crime, like an earthquake, occurs in waves. Crime tends to cluster together and spread in waves, or tremors, similar to an earthquake. The program can narrow a particular crime down to an area of about 500 feet by 500 feet, or the size of a city block.

Does it Work?

Charleston was the first city in South Carolina to start using the software.  Currently, Charleston is still in the testing stages with the system. If Charleston-area law enforcement officers are satisfied with the results, they will negotiate with PredPol to invest in the program and use it daily.

Santa Cruz, home to the software company, was the first city used to test the software.

Prior to using the software, Santa Cruz experienced:

  • 160 car thefts
  • 495 burglaries
  • The laying off of 10 of its 104 officers
  • Since 2001, a population growth of 5,500 making the new population 60,000

With the population growing and the police force shrinking, Santa Cruz tested out the predictive policing system to see if it could help.

Since the software is fresh on the market, it is too soon to make an accurate conclusion on the effectiveness of the program.

Since using the software, Santa Cruz has experienced a 27% reduction in burglaries (data from July 2010 to July 2011). Other areas of Los Angeles have seen similar results. In precincts where the system is used, there has been a 13% reduction in property crimes.

Stay tuned to see if predictive policing could be arriving in the Columbia, SC area. If you have questions about criminal charges, contact the Strom Law Firm today. We are located in Columbia, SC, and can answer your legal questions about local, state, and national criminal defense. 803.252.4800.




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