Predictive policing cuts burglary rates

Predictive policing has helped Essex Police reduce house burglaries by almost ten per cent during the ten months it has been used as part of Operation Insight.

Sep 18, 2014
By Paul Jacques
Chief Constable Jo Farrell

Predictive policing has helped Essex Police reduce house burglaries by almost ten per cent during the ten months it has been used as part of Operation Insight.

Figures for July show that house burglaries in Essex were down 21 per cent compared to July 2013 – from 653 offences to 513, the lowest monthly figure since July 2011 (when 498 house burglaries were recorded for the month).

Operation Insight makes use of the predictive policing software PredPol that is being trialled by Essex Police to help direct police resources to where they can have the greatest impact on burglary. It uses historic data, combined with algorithms to identify 15 squares (500 x 500ft each) on a division that are most likely to be affected by crime.

Officers are given the task of spending 15 minutes of their shift in one of the identified areas, using traditional police skills to prevent or deter crime. This intelligence analysis allows the force to identify areas at the greatest risk of where a burglary will occur.

The approach is based on a behavioural characteristic known as ‘optimal foraging’ – developed by University College London and adopted by a small number of forces in the UK – that criminals will operate in a locality which they know very well and where they have successfully committed crimes before.

Deployments are concentrated in the areas which are ranked as higher or hyper-risk areas. The Insight model also provides information on key offenders who reside in that locality.

A mapping system highlights these priority zones and police resources can be moved into the zones or simply informed of them when they are in the locality. Sergeants, inspectors and operational commanders all have full access to the mapping system – including on mobile data terminals (MDTs) – so teams can be supported in their patrol activity.

The force is now looking at overlaying stop and search data on the Insight maps to provide more intelligence.

Since Operation Insight launched last October, house burglaries have dropped by 9.8 per cent or 662 (6,104 from October 2013 to July 2014, compared to 6,766 between October 2012 and July 2013).

Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh said the figures highlight the importance of Operation Insight and predictive policing in helping to reduce burglaries and the number of victims of crime in Essex.

“There is so much value in all the work being carried out to combat burglars – patrolling our key risk zones, prompt arrests, effective allocation of calls, cocooning around burglary locations and good crime-scene management and offender management – and the results are clearly showing,” he added.

Essex police and crime commissioner Nick Alston praised the “innovative, science-based, professional policing operation” by Essex Police, adding: “Essex Police is continuing to evaluate these predictive policing techniques, adapting the core principles for use in areas as diverse as built-up urban areas and more sparsely-populated rural areas. This process of critical evaluation, with academic involvement, will continue.”

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