REAL LIFE IMITATES SCIENCE FICTION: CRIME PREDICTION
A police force in California is attempting to emulate the film Minority Report, by dealing with crimes before they are committed.
They're not doing with a team of bald precogs lying in baths, but instead they are using computer modelling to predict where crimes will occur, then sending officers out to those areas before any incidents are reported.
Santa Cruz police force started this program in July after their numbers were cut, while at the same time crime was on the increase. The models have been created by mathematicians, an anthropologist and a criminologist. It works a bit like algorithms used for earthquake prediction by generating projections about which areas are at highest risk of future crime, and in which windows of time, by analzying past crime data and looking for patterns.
The question, of course, is does this work. News reports have given one example where police were able to catch some crooks red-handed thanks to these projections: a pair of women were found "peering into cars in a downtown parking garage" and arrested as potential car thieves; one was found to be carrying drugs, the other had outstanding warrants. The police were in the area not because anyone had reported a crime or called in their suspicions, but because the computer had predicted there was a good chance a crime would be committed there.
One example doesn't prove anything, of course - this could be a coincidence - but as more police forces use similar modelling to direct their efforts to certain areas, it will be interesting to see what results they have.