I don’t know if you were a child of the 80s, but if you were, and if you were lucky enough to catch the commendable childrens’ programing that aired on PBS in the latter half of that decade, you might have watched the mathematics themed show “Square 1” which featured a cop drama spoof called “Mathnet,” in which a couple of detectives used mathematics to solve crime. They even carried calculators in their shoulder holsters; and when the calcs came out, we knew it meant business.
I was an advocate then and I’m an advocate now; and it just happens that we may start to see a uniquely mathematical approach to crime fighting courtesy of an Edmonton Transit security analyst Stephane Contré, and his technology. Contré’s software, called Daily Crime Forecast, uses an algorithm to assess crime incident reports from existing data to pinpoint where and when future crimes are likely to occur.
At first instance it sounds like a pipe dream to be placed along stock market predicting algorithms and time machines; you can’t predict human behaviour, and you can’t predict social systems. But Contré’s software has tested incredibly well. Edmonton Transit has been testing it for over two years now and since its introduction, officer initiated calls (calls from an officer who is already at the scene of a situation) rose by 159% while reactive calls (when an officer has to be dispatched to deal with a situation) dropped by 52%. I’m reminded of watching Kate Monday and George Frankly (calculators drawn) elucidating the concept of triangulation to predict the location of a yet to happen car theft. Technology can indeed help us be in the right place at the right time, most of the time, to address crime.
Contré, who has been working with the assistance of the Edmonton-based Northern Alberta Institute of Technology and its novaNAIT centre for applied research and technology transfer, is now poised to go commercial, and he has piqued the interest of an American police agency, as well as the Canadian Military. The US Military may even trexplore the use of his technology to tackle the devastating challenge of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
“Ultimately,” Contré said, “I would like my product to help communities increase the safety and security of their citizens and provide a better quality of life for all by effectively targeting crime.”
More on this story can be found at Troy Media Corporation