Law-enforcement technologyBattle-tested technologies no employed by the police

Published 25 February 2013

Technologies employed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are now hitting local streets across the United States, changing how local law enforcement investigates crimes by focusing on where crimes are most likely to happen instead of where a crime has taken place.

Technologies employed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are now hitting local streets across the United States, changing how local law enforcement investigates crimes by focusing on where crimes are most likely to happen instead of where a crime has taken place.

The Washington Post reportsthat one such technology  is  “geospatial predictive analytics.” This new program has helped police in Virginia catch copper thieves and a strangler in Philadelphia. The program also helped officers deploy police across the Washington region during the mysterious shootings of military installations in 2010.

“We were able to use the information in a good way to save taxpayers money rather than haphazardly throwing things against the wall and seeing if it sticks,” Virginia State Police Capt. Steven W. Lambert of the Virginia Fusion Centertold the Washington Post.

The center coordinates statewide investigations, including the five shootings at military buildings.

Yonathan Melaku was arrested and charged in 2011 with the shootings as he attempted another shooting at the Arlington National Cemetery, but police were expecting him there after using the technology to analyze his sightlines, access points, and escape routes.

The case, led by the FBI, ended with Melaku pleading guilty to the shootings, and in January he was sentenced to twenty-five years in prison.

The technology originally was developed using satellite imaging and other data in order to help U.S. troops anticipate where explosives were buried in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition to the geospatial predictive analytics, high-speed license plate readers, mobile fingerprint devices, and facial recognition software are all currently being used by local law enforcement.

The same predictive technology helped  Virginia State Police catch copper thieves at Dominion Virginia Powerfacilities. One of the key predictors generated by the program about which site would be hit next was how close metal dealers were to the power facilities.

Virginia State Policeare now employing the same technology to search for an arsonist who has been blamed for forty-eight fires since November.

The same technology was also used by New Jersey’s Regional Operations Intelligence Centerto track a serial strangler in Philadelphia, who killed three women. Antonio Rodriguez was linked to the crimes through DNA and was convicted of murder last summer.

All three people were caught as a result of their habits being figured out about them.

“People are creatures of habit,” Colleen McCue of DigitalGlobe, the private company that developed the technology and worked with law enforcement on the Melaku case told the Post. “It’s not a coincidence that in the grocery store your favorite cereal is at eye level.”

Researchers in California started a group called PredPol, in order to help a police department in Santa Cruz predict crime.

“In the last decade, we had a 30 percent increase in calls for service and a 20 percent decline in staff,” Zach Friend, the department’s crime analyst at the time, who is now a member of the county’s board of supervisors told the Post. “We knew we weren’t going to get more cops on the street.”

When officers begin their shifts, they are handed a map detailing which crimes may occur that day , including burglaries, car break-ins, thefts, and other crimes within an identified zone. In the first six months of the program, burglaries declined 19 percent.

 

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