Met police talks up 'Minority Report' predictive software

Inspector Knacker of the Metropolitan Police has splashed out on some software which, it is claimed, will forecast where offenders will strike next.

The Metro has waxed ever so lyrically that the software is exactly what Tom Cruise used in the hit flick Minority Report. Of course, it doesn’t wire psychics into a mainframe. Actually the report is about a computer algorithm which looks at crime statistics and criminal behaviour models to produce ‘predictive areas’ where burglars and muggers are likely to target.

This means cops can increase patrols in areas perceived to be at risk. According to the Met, when the idea was tried in Manchester, street violence dropped by 26 percent.

The software can predict that a spot, no larger than 250 yards across, is likely to become a crime scene.

A pilot scheme saw ‘significant reductions’ in burglaries in Hackney, Wandsworth, Newham and Lewisham and the police think that the computer algorithms are ‘seven times more accurate than chance’.

Met commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe now wants to use the technology to tackle antisocial behaviour and vehicle crime and extend its use across London.

However, the system was developed in America from the same kind of calculations used to predict earthquakes, which is interesting because it still can’t be done.

Professor Shane Johnson, of University College London department for crime science, who is helping police develop the system, found that burglars’ tactics closely match the behaviour of wild animals searching for food.

Burglars return to sites they have found productive but move on when they realise supplies are exhausted, he said.