Seattle mayor asks community members to contribute to data-driven "Predictive Policing"

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Mayor McGinn speaks at the announcement
SEATTLE —

Mayor Mike McGinn and Seattle police Deputy Chief Nick Metz announced Friday that new "Predictive Policing" software will be deployed in all five Seattle police precincts.

McGinn and Metz asked community members to get involved by reporting crimes proactively.

“The software has been used by police departments all over the nation to reduce crime through deep analysis of crime and location data,” a statement from the mayor’s office said. “The software makes predictions about the places where crime is likely to occur, based on crime and location data from police reports.  It does not predict who, only where.  But by knowing the place where crimes are likely to occur, it enables SPD to deploy patrols where they are most needed, and it allows the community to develop strategies to make places safer.”

"We’ve heard from communities, particularly in the North Precinct, through our Safe Communities outreach process that we need better data analysis to prevent property crime," said McGinn. "We’ve had anecdotal successes with the pilot project in East and Southwest Precincts, so we’re expanding Predictive Policing citywide. We’re asking the community to get involved by reporting even minor property crimes so we can improve our data set and predict where crime is likely to occur. This is a tool that can help us prevent some crimes before they happen, so it’s very important that community members get involved.”

“Predictive Policing is a technology tool that increases our odds of stopping crime because it tells law enforcement when and where crime is likely to occur” said Metz. “With the community’s help, we can prevent some crimes before they take place by being in the right place at the right time.”

The statement from the mayor’s office explained that, using computer models similar to those used to predict earthquake aftershocks, Predictive Policing analyzes crime data dating back to 2008 and forecasts times and locations where crime is likely to occur—down to a geographic area as small as 500 feet by 500 feet. Officers receive new crime forecasts at the beginning of each shift, telling them when and where they should focus their patrols in between 911 calls.

“But the predictions are based on police reports,” the statement said, “so they can only be effective if community members are proactive about reporting even minor property crimes with the department’s online tool at seattle.gov/police/report. The more data the system has, the better the predictions it produces.”