Home > Politics, Science > Fighting Crime with Databases

Fighting Crime with Databases

Ian Harvey writes in CBC:

What’s the connection between a lower crime rate, the price of shampoo at your local big box retailer, the stock market and next quarter profits?

The answer, surprisingly, is data mining, combing through statistics and details to establish a relationship between the numbers and other information.

Data mining isn’t new, but a convergence of faster and cheaper hardware, robust and flexible software and deflating storage costs are making it possible to not only crunch more numbers at a time but to get the answers almost instantaneously.Policing is a prime example. Earlier this year a bedazzled Rodney Munroe, chief of the Richmond, Va. police service, accepted the 2007 Business Intelligence Award for Excellence from Gartner, a leading information technology research and advisory company, at a black tie Chicago event.

The award usually goes to innovative business applications, but judges were impressed with how Munroe turned analytics into a formidable crime-fighting tool.

When Munroe took over as chief two years ago, his department was drowning in crime and data. Police had a mass of data from 911 calls and crime reports; what they didn’t have was a way to connect the dots and see a pattern of behaviour.

Using some sophisticated software and hardware they started overlaying crime reports with other data, such as weather, traffic, sports events and paydays for large employers. The data was analyzed three times a day and something interesting emerged: Robberies spiked on paydays near cheque cashing storefronts in specific neighbourhoods. Other clusters also became apparent, and pretty soon police were deploying resources in advance and predicting where crime was most likely to occur.

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