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New Software Algorithm Helps NYPD Spot Crime Patterns



New York police departments have all sorts of new technology to use to their advantage that would make officers from past generations gasp in astonishment. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

New York police departments have all sorts of new technology to use to their advantage that would make officers from past generations gasp in astonishment. The technology is helping to make the job safer and more efficient. In one example cited by Vos Iz Neais News, police were able to rely on a special pattern-recognition program that let them know right away that a thief with an improvised weapon up near Yankee Stadium was a repeat offender, flagged once before for the same crime he was committing at the time of stealing a drill from a Home Depot.

Vos Iz Neais reports that the software is named Patternizr and can crunch crime data in order to quickly analyze crimes in the database so that cops can be more efficient in knowing where the criminals are, who to focus on most, and how to track and expect them.

In the past, cops would have to do a lot of old-fashioned research and police work. They’d have to dig through physical files and try to put pieces of the puzzle together, but now a program that uses complex algorithms can exploit an extensive crime database in order to greatly assist officers in keeping crime off the streets. Evan Levine and Alex Cholas-Wood introduced the program in 2016 after two years of working on it, but it wasn’t publicly known until earlier this month.

“Because Patternizr picked up those key details in the algorithm, it brought back complaints from other precincts that I wouldn’t have known,” Bronx crime analyst Rebecca Shutt, who worked on the Home Depot case said. “That was incredibly helpful. That could have been a pattern that wasn’t made.”

There were actually two instances of the theft in the earlier example coming up from the program that showed he used a syringe as a weapon, and once he pleaded guilty to larceny and assault.

Once Levine and Cholas-Wood described what they’d created in the INFORMS Journal on Applied Analytics that was meant to show other police departments that such technology exists, works, and is readily available. The two told the Associated Press that the NYPD is the first to try this technology.

“The goal of Patternizr is, of course, to improve public safety,” Levine, an astrophysicist said. “The more easily that we can identify patterns in those crimes, the more quickly we can identify and apprehend perpetrators.”

The technology can assess a number of factors in order to put the entire picture together for law enforcement officials like how a person ingressed into a facility, what was stolen, and triangulating locations and possible next spots through tracking and analysing distances between or among locations.

“The real advantage of the tool is that we minimize the amount of leg work and busy work that analysts or detectives have to do and really allow them to leverage their expertise and their experience in going through a much smaller list of results,” Cholas-Wood, who is the deputy director of the Stanford Computational Policy Lab at Stanford University said.

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