Stopping Crime Before It Starts

Predictive policing helps police protect citizens. It could also be used to oppress them.

In the 2002 sci-fi thriller Minority Report (based on a dark Philip K. Dick tale), Pre-Crime Unit Captain John Anderton is on the run from police because the mutant pre-cog psychics used by his unit predict that he will murder a man in the next 36 hours. More recently, the hit CBS television series Person of Interest posits a secret all-seeing computer surveillance system developed by a reclusive billionaire genius for the U.S. government that can predict that a specific person will be involved in a violent crime. For now, these are fiction. Researchers are, however, claiming to have developed computer programs that can predict not who will commit a crime, but at what locations they are likely to occur. Welcome to the brave new world of predictive policing.

Predictive policing goes beyond the celebrated CompStat system that was widely adopted by many cities as a national crime wave crested in the 1990s. In CompStat recent crime data are plotted on a city map as a way to identify crime “hotspots” to which more police are deployed. CompStat is credited with dramatically reducing crime in cities where it was implemented.

Now comes predictive policing, which proponents claim is even more effective in reducing crime. For example, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) recently reported in a randomized controlled trial that one such program has reduced property crimes by 13 percent in precincts where it has been implemented compared to a slight overall increase in those crimes in the rest of the city. “We have prevented hundreds and hundreds of people coming home and seeing their homes robbed," said police LAPD Capt. Sean Malinowski to the AP. Malinowski is the Commanding Officer of Real-time Analysis and Critical Response of the LAPD and the principal investigator on the National Institute of Justice funded “Los Angeles Predictive Policing Planning Project.” The LAPD is now rolling out the program to more of the city.

The particular program used by the LAPD is called PredPol, which has been devised by a team of researchers led by University of California, Los Angeles anthropologist Jeffrey Brantingham. PredPol is relatively new; other cities have been using predictive crime analytics programs by IBM for several years. In addition, using PredPol the City of Santa Cruz experienced a reduction in burglaries by 27 percent in July of 2011 compared with July 2010. PredPol’s algorithm was able to predict crime time and location (hotspots) in Los Angeles with twice the accuracy of trained crime analysts.

In Los Angeles, predictive policing is currently applied to forecasting the likelihood of burglaries, auto theft, and theft from autos. Crunching weighted crime data from the past three years, the PredPol algorithm produces a daily list of hotspot boxes measuring 500 feet by 500 feet and along with times when the crimes are predicted to be most likely to take place. Between responding to specific calls for assistance from the public, officers are directed to go into the boxes identified by the program. The idea is not to make arrests but to disrupt law-breaking before it occurs.

How does predictive policing work to reduce property crimes? Crime does not randomly disperse through cities. For example, research has shown that half the crime in Seattle occurs on 4.5 percent of that city’s streets; just over 3 percent of street addresses and intersections generated half the crimes in Minneapolis; and 8 percent of street blocks accounted for 66 percent of robberies in Boston.

Researchers have developed two theories for why some areas are subject to higher rates of crime; near repeat theory and risk terrain modeling. Near repeat theory hypothesizes that once a particular location has been hit by a crime it is more likely nearby locations will be hit too. For example, studies have shown that burglaries are “contagious.” One study found that “houses within 200 meters of a burgled home were at an elevated risk of burglary for a period of at least two weeks.” Why? Possibly because a successful burglary advertises similar vulnerabilities in other properties in a neighborhood.

Risk terrain modeling maps various risk factors to identify areas where crimes are more likely to occur. For example, Rutgers University computational criminologist Joel Caplan mapped for Irvington, New Jersey four crime risk factors correlated with shooting incidents. The risk factors were the locations of gang member residences, public bus stops, schools, and facilities like bars, clubs, fast food restaurants, and liquor stores. He found that “the likelihood of a shooting happening at particular 100-foot-by-100-foot places in Irvington during 2007 increases by 143 percent as each additional risk factor affects that place.”

In June, Brantingham and his colleagues published a study that applied Lotka-Volterra equations used by biologists for decades to determine the hunting ranges of animals in the wild to map the territories of street gangs [PDF]. Their model predicted that 59 percent of gang crimes would occur within two blocks of a border between two gangs and 87.5 percent would occur within about three blocks. When the researchers mapped more than 500 crimes attributed to 13 gangs in a specific area of Los Angeles, they found in fact that 58 percent and 83 percent occurred within two blocks and three blocks of a border respectively.

"You would think that we're more complicated than other animals, so a model this simplistic shouldn't work, but I was surprised that it fit as well as it did," said study co-author Martin Short, an assistant adjunct professor of mathematics at UCLA in Wired UK. This research may eventually be used to identify zones to be more intensively patrolled by police with the goal of disrupting assaults and murders perpetrated by gangs.

The accuracy of predictive policing programs depends on the accuracy of the information they are fed. Lots of crimes are not reported, skewing the computer forecasts. According to near repeat theory, the probability that a crime will be committed decays with time, so moves toward real-time data input would boost the accuracy of forecasts. Finally, it is early days yet for predictive policing so the algorithms must be validated by outside experts. Some police departments have become notorious for cooking their crime statistics books, so an independent oversight board is a good idea to keep them honest. One possible downside of transparency is that savvy criminals or terrorists could use predictive policing programs to figure out likely police deployments as a way identify unprotected targets.

How might predictive policing interfere with the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment guarantee that Americans are to be free unreasonable searches and seizures? Andrew Guthrie Ferguson, a law professor at the University of the District of Columbia notes in an article, "Predictive Policing: The Future of Reasonable Suspicion," forthcoming in the Emory Law Journal, that police must have either “probable cause” to search or “reasonable suspicion” to seize an individual. Such determinations are actually predictions by law enforcement officials about the likelihood they will find evidence of a crime when they search a premise or detain a suspect. Can computer programs improve these predictions and thus help police identify would-be perpetrators while excluding the innocent?

To find analogies to how predictive policing might affect Fourth Amendment protections, Ferguson reviews various Fourth Amendment court cases involving anonymous tips, informant tips, profiling, and high crime area designations. Tips refer to the activities of particular individuals. Predictive policing forecasts do not. Consequently, Ferguson argues, “Because predictive policing does not provide personal knowledge about an ongoing crime, or particularized identification of the suspect involved, it cannot support the weight of reasonable suspicion.”

On the other hand, if a specific area has been identified by the computer program as being at higher risk for an outbreak of, say, burglaries, then courts would likely accept reasonable suspicion arguments by police who had stopped a suspect in that area fitting a burglar “profile,” e.g., carrying duffel bags, tools, ropes, gloves in warm weather, etc. Ferguson concludes that “predictive policing forecasts, alone, will not constitute sufficient information to justify reasonable suspicion or probable cause,” but instead will be seen by courts as a “plus factor” in making such determinations.

Ferguson also expresses the hope that the advent of predictive policing might “cause courts to rethink the current overly flexible approach to reasonable suspicion.” One possible liberty-enhancing benefit from predictive policing might be that by focusing law enforcement attention on specific city blocks that innocent citizens living in higher crime neighborhoods (often inhabited by members of ethnic minorities) may experience less intrusive police contact. Is it too much to hope that better crime forecasts will not only lead to fewer crimes, but also to less police interference with our liberties? Maybe not. But we should always keep in mind that any new technology that helps the police to better protect citizens can also be used to better oppress them. 

Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey is the author of Liberation Biology (Prometheus).

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  • Aresen||

    "You are under arrest for crimes you will commit."

  • Brandybuck||

    But if I am in jail I will not commit them. Oh wait...

  • WWNGD?||

    They were hate crimes, so they still have you on those charges.

  • Rich||

    just over 3 percent of street addresses and intersections generated half the crimes in Minneapolis

    So, eliminate those addresses and intersections already!

  • Pro Libertate||

    We'll know they have predictive policing when Episiarch is arrested, tried, and executed for treason.

  • ||

    Only if they can find me, ProL. Where do you live again?

  • Pro Libertate||

    In your attic.

  • ||

    Since I live in your basement, that makes perfect sense. By the way, I moved into your basement 5 years ago.

  • Pro Libertate||

    We don't have basements in Florida. I think you're stalking SugarFree by mistake.

  • ||

    That's entirely possible. Let's verify: there were seven dead bodies already here when I moved in. Now, I know you're generally more prolific than that, so maybe that number means I'm in NutraSweet's basement?

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Thanks Frick n' Frack. Goddammit you guys make me laugh!

  • sloopyinca||

    Meh. Needs more Warty.

  • Archduke PantsFan||

    Not enough substance. 4 sentences. Who makes more money?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    One day we will be able to use the human genome to arrest fetuses for crimes they will commit.

  • ||

    So would abortion be justified if it's a capital offense?

  • Dylan||

    "You would think that we're more complicated than other animals..."

    No, gang members aren't more complicated than animals.

  • SKR||

    Lol, i thought the same thing.

  • James Anderson Merritt||

    Not even more complicated than turkeys, and "thats a fack jack!"

  • Hugh Akston||

    But will conservatives still support the death penalty in those cases?

  • Aresen||

    A death penalty for stupidity would wipe out a large portion of the world's police forces and governments.

    Not to mention decimating call centers everywhere.

  • sloopyinca||

    Police are already shooting and killing people they say are on their way to commit crimes. And here's how they feel about it. Hint: they love it!

  • Mr. FIFY||

    We're all potential criminals. Especially if we don't supplicate ourselves before

  • Killazontherun||

    We are all potential criminals and we are all potential cops. Inside every man is a struggle between the darkness of law and the darkness of chaos, between devils and demons.

  • BarryD||

    Anyone who has lived in LA for a while can tell you where crimes are more likely to occur. Someone with powers of observation can predict who is more likely to commit them, if they are hanging around in those locations.

    Note that I said, "more likely". We are talking about 13% here.

    They used to call this "profiling". Now they have to call it a computer model. How, exactly, it's different, remains to be seen.

  • ant1sthenes||

    Because computers aren't racist.

  • BarryD||

    If human cops can be racists because not all groups commit crimes with the same relative frequency, for various reasons, and therefore the arrest stats vary by social/ethnic/whatever group, then a computer can be just as "racist".

    See the SAT...

  • ||

    I'd much rather have a computer program using statistical modelling do the predicting than a biased human being.

  • db||

    As the SO of a Ph.D statistician, I can tell you your faith may be a bit misplaced. She would too. Many scientists making up statistical models have only the barest understanding of what they're doing.

  • ||

    In which case the statistical model doesn't succeed in predicting anything.

    You can test these things against reality and show whether their predictions are accurate or not.

  • db||

    Unfortunately that often gets left up to otherresearchers who may attempt to verify the published results. In fields where tons of papers are published with little emphasis on checking others' work, bad research often goes unnoticed.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Predictive policing helps police protect citizens. It will eventually be used by one or both Teams to oppress them.

  • BarryD||

    The claim is that this "computer model" can predict where crimes are more likely to occur.

    Like, say, a liquor store in a bad neighborhood around midnight on a cold weeknight when there aren't many people around and it doesn't look suspicious to wear an oversized hoodie.

    More likely than, say, a clothing store in the Galleria at noon on a Saturday? Uh, well, yeah.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Or, using the SPLC as a source, predicting that everyone with a Ron Paul bumpersticker = domestic terrorist.

  • Aresen||

    More likely than, say, a clothing store in the Galleria at noon on a Saturday?

    You really aren't familiar with how shoplifters operate, are you?

  • Elphie||

    Or how Terminators operate.

  • ||

    The 600 series had rubber skin. We spotted them easy, but these are new. They look human...sweat, bad breath, everything. Very hard to spot. I had to wait till he tried to shoplift before I could zero him.

  • Elphie||

    I see... So the Terminators were actually sent back in time to shoplift collectible items to sell on Future EBay, but when they were caught they panicked and made up the whole must-kill-John-Connor thing?

  • ||

    One possible future. From your point of view...I don't know tech stuff.

  • DJK||

    It makes more sense than the story that Cameron actually went with.

  • BarryD||

    I don't think they were talking about shoplifting.

  • BarryD||

    And furthermore, a model that predicted that shoplifting would invariably occur in a shop would not be particularly impressive -- much like a model that predicted that bank robberies would happen at banks.

  • ||

    I've worn a hoodie at the Galleria.

    It still cracks me up that people think that hoodies are suspicious.

  • Aresen||

    Be honest.

    If you met yourself in a dark alley, wouldn't you be scared?

  • ||

    No, but then I also wouldn't be in a dark alley.

  • General Butt Naked||

    My reflection in the hallway mirror scares the shit out of me when I stumble through the dark to piss.

    Does this make me a badass or a big pussy?

  • sloopyinca||

    Does this make me a badass or a big pussy?

    Yes. Yes it does.

  • BarryD||

    An oversized hoodie is a good way to keep one's face out of the security camera, and to hide a weapon. And it's something that normal people wear with it's cold in LA. That's not suspicious, it's just a practical tool of the trade.

  • DJK||

    Hahahaha! Cold in LA? Really? Left Coasters need to experience real weather sometime. I always laughed when I would walk around in Berkeley and people were bitching about it being upper 50s or low 60s in the winter. Try -20 sometime.

  • ant1sthenes||

    As cynical as I am, I'm having trouble seeing how.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    You would think that we're more complicated than other animals

    This researcher is clearly underestimating my level of cynicism.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Two Zappa references needed in one day? Unpossible, you say?

    http://www.lyricstime.com/fran.....yrics.html

    Welcome to the future, America.

  • ||

    Wasn't this an episode of Futurama?

  • Mr. Soul||

    yeppers! Law Oracle. I love Chief O'Manahan in that one. Best episode ever.

  • ||

    You can choose.

  • Erik Jay||

    "Researchers at UCLA claim to have developed computer programs that can predict not whom will commit a crime..."

    Good grief. This stuff likely comes from the same kind of person who says, "Thanks for inviting Mary and I," admiring their own sophistication -- when they should really just self-identify with the first two syllables of that word.

  • Aresen||

    ?

    "I"?

    Two syllables?

    Must be a California pronunciation.

  • ||

    Psst, I think he was talking about the word sophistication.

  • Jerry on the road||

    Their model predicted that 59 percent of gang crimes would occur within two blocks of a border between two gangs and 87.5 percent would occur within about three blocks.

    This is so much nonsense. The model predicts nothing, because everything is already defined by using the term like "a border between two gangs."

  • ||

    "So the violence will happen at gang boarders?"

    "yes"

    "How will you know where the gang boarders are?"

    "Cuz that is where the violence is."

    So you are predicting that the violence will occurs where the violence occurs?

    "You shut up or I will start predicting violence in the vicinity of your face."

  • toxic||

    The only problem with minority report is that they gave life sentences to people who would have committed a crime. Put them in temporary detention, maybe charge them with attempted murder.

    As long as predictive policing is used to more effectively distribute policing resources instead of an excuse to cavity search anyone in the area, I don't see a problem. Of course, they will probably try to use predicative policing to lower PC standards, but hey. We will see.

  • hk||

    Private police officers would be far more efficient, and kept under control better since they don't have special benefits.

    The problem with Minority Report is that the police had flimsy evidence, and people deserve their day in court.

  • DJK||

    Agreed. I don't really see what the problem is here. As long as people aren't being arrested until they actually commit crimes, there's no real problem with enforcement. And if it helps to use police resources more effectively to prevent crime, all the better.

  • hk||

    The reason these resources are inefficiently used, is because they're being used by public sector police officers.

    I don't think you get the point.

  • 0x90||

    "'You would think that we're more complicated than other animals, so a model this simplistic shouldn't work, but I was surprised that it fit as well as it did, I must say' said study co-author Martin Short."

  • Fatty Bolger||

    lol

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    If you got that reference, you're old! I got it. ;-)

  • ant1sthenes||

    I got it, and I'm not that old.

  • ||

    DON'T TALK SHIT ABOUT ED GRIMLEY

  • James Anderson Merritt||

    I'm liking Short in his recurring role as Marshall's boss in HIMYM. It had almost made me forget about Grimley. Then just had to bring it up, didn't you? You're on my list, pal.

  • Brandybuck||

    My mother learned that 50% of crimes happens within five miles of home. So she moved.

  • sloopyinca||

    Is your mother a Polack?

  • sloopyinca||

    Have we become such a nation of thin-skinned enablers that we will now put a player from the home team in every Home Run Derby so as not to have people booed that do not include them?

    Holy fucking shit, MLB is pathetic.

  • General Butt Naked||

    What a fucking joke.

    Next they'll have the twelfth caller for the WFUC krazy morning krew slugger contest batting for the home team.

  • Elphie||

    Ummm... So I clicked on your name and thought that vid was a joke... Then I did some Googling and I must say, that guy is pretty messed up.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    I did the same thing a few months ago. Yeesh!

  • Ted S.||

    Who gives a shit about the Some-Star Game in the first place?

  • ||

    I think the real answer is to not have the All-Star game in cities with shitty teams who can't put up a decent home-run hitter.

  • James Anderson Merritt||

    I am in awe of statistics that can, with any reliability, predict when and/or where crimes will happen. I don't don't doubt that such a calculus exists! But it will be heavily dependent on who is in (or has access to) a particular area and what temptations exist in that area. As bad guys move between areas, the likelihood of crime in those areas will vary; at some point, these blips will be localized to a specific individual or individuals. I worry that one use of software of this nature will be to winnow down suspect lists until they contain only a handful of "likely future perps," or maybe even just one. The people who remain on the list will then be subject to ever greater levels of scrutiny, until they are caught doing something wrong. All well and good for the people who actually go on to commit crimes, but for all the others (and there will be others), who will compensate them for their lack of privacy and the virtual suspension of the presumption of innocence, after the computer paints targets on their backs?

  • ||

    OIr, it might NOT be localized to a particular individual. It might be that a particular shop is suceptible to burglaries because (say) the security cameras have bad viewing angles, the street it's on is close to a major traffic artery, the entrance is not well lit, etc.

    I've seen reports saying that you can predict crime rates based on distance from an interstate exit. If someone can pop on the interstate and go halfway across town before the crime is reported it's a lot easier to get away with it.

  • LemonMender||

    It's actually the opposite. One example I read a few years ago was that if you want to predict and prevent home invasion-type stranger rapes one of the best predictors is BE reports for the home in the previous few weeks where nothing was stolen. Although the connection is obvious -- the BE was a scouting attempt/dry run -- nobody had picked up on that as a general heuristic until the data mining guys came along.

    So this example (at least) doesn't invade anybody's privacy. The police simply step up their presence in the area and either (a) catch the guy when he returns by watching the house (presumably with the owner's permission) or (b) the potential perp catches on and aborts. Either way, the homeowner is spared victimization and greatly benefits.

    The data models don't tell you anything about who the perpetrator is likely to be (although I suppose they could) nor encourage the police to go round up any general group. Instead it tells them to keep an eye out in an area for an individual engaged in specific types of activities.

    In terms of privacy, it's actually a net win. While previously you'd cast a wider net (and thereby both increase the chance of the bad guy slipping through and increase your false positives), in this view you case a narrower net with a much higher likelihood of finding the actual target and a lower likelihood of harming the innocent.

  • Sevo||

    James Anderson Merritt|7.10.12 @ 8:29PM|#
    "I am in awe of statistics that can, with any reliability, predict when and/or where crimes will happen."

    I would be, too, except that it's total bullshit, shades of Ehrlich.
    People, even dim-witted thugs, are brighter than lab rats. Increase enforcement in area X and they'll move to area Y.
    Surprise! Cops now need increase funding to patrol area Y! Rinse and repeat.

  • ||

    Sure, but I can see how you could get a better understanding of how thigs like placement of street lights, map layout, topography, and such could make particular areas a better target for burglars. And if you know those things you can change them.

    Like putting ATMs in a well lighted location in plain view of the street instead of in out of the way alcoves.
    Put it in a dark corner and more people will get robbed while withdrawing cash. What's wrong with studying those things to indetify factors that make certain places more suceptible to rime?

  • LemonMender||

    It helps to learn more about things before you make pronouncements. See my comment above for an example of the kinds of things they discover. This isn't about just putting more police in one neighborhood and displacing the crime. It's about spotting trends not visible to the casual observer that enable the police to refine their activities. It's not that the data predict when and where a specific crime will occur. Rather they can tell you that based on what has happened in an area over the pat few weeks, you can (statistically) expect to see certain sorts of things happen there. It's not a blanket that makes things move, but rather much more targeted than that. It's a shame Ron chose some examples that are pretty simple because the more sophisticated stuff is actually pretty cool, like what I mentioned about a no-theft BE being a good statistical indicator that the same house will be hit by an invasion-type rape within the next few weeks and the police and home owner may want to take reasonable precautions.

  • James Anderson Merritt||

    I should probably add, for everyone who has weighed in on my comment above, that I actually live in one of the first communities trying this: Santa Cruz CA. I have read newspaper accounts and scholarly papers on the technology, and am pretty well convinced that it is effective and useful, though I am not certain that even the developer knows exactly why -- but that happens a lot with statistical methods. I agree that one CAN use this technology in a way that doesn't generally violate anyone's privacy, and that is certainly how I would prefer it to be used. But from what I have read and seen, I also think it can be tweaked, in connection with ever more pervasive surveillance technology, to triangulate on individuals or small groups, which I guarantee to you that someone will want to do eventually. I don't think we'll be able to put this genie back in the bottle, so I am interested in confirming that strategies for mitigating error and abuse are (or will be put) in place before they are needed.

  • ||

    A proposal to bring back the draft

    Don't worry us asshole libertarians can opt out:

    And libertarians who object to a draft could opt out. Those who declined to help Uncle Sam would in return pledge to ask nothing from him — no Medicare, no subsidized college loans and no mortgage guarantees. Those who want minimal government can have it.

    Of course he never says we get to stop paying for those things...

  • Sevo||

    "Of course he never says we get to stop paying for those things..."

    Yep.
    You can opt out of benes, but not out of taxes.
    And you can do that right now.

  • sloopyinca||

    FTA: But most of all, having a draft might, as General McChrystal said, make Americans think more carefully before going to war. Imagine the savings — in blood, tears and national treasure — if we had thought twice about whether we really wanted to invade Iraq.

    Yeah, it might. So would teaching Americans what the Constitution means.

  • ant1sthenes||

    I don't think we should let fascists get away with referring to compulsory civilian service as a "draft". Call it what it is -- slavery. I'm not on board with military draft, but I can least understand how people tolerate it (the same way they tolerate all sort of other violations of civil liberties in times of crisis -- even the Constitution itself has some provisions of that nature).

    Compulsory non-military service, however, merits no such distinction. It is not a "draft". It is not "mandatory volunteerism" (one of the more hilariously stupid abuses of language I've heard recently). It is slavery. Period. The end.

  • sloopyinca||

    Obama does something good for a change. Authority fetishists piss their collective pants.

  • ||

    Not really seeing a big diff in moving border patrol agents to another location. Fire some of them and then maybe I might say that was an improvement.

  • sloopyinca||

    At least he's moving them to the actual border as opposed to 150 miles from it.

  • ||

    I can see how things like this could actually be an excellent idea.

    If you can predict where crimes are likely to occur, that means you can study what factors are associated with crime rates.

    Say, you could get a general inking of what geographic factors make a particular street more suceptible to burglary - odd street angles that shield houses from view, say, or better escape routes for criminals.

    And once you get an under standing of that you can distribute resources more efficiently. Have cops patrol those area more often, install more street lights, design the street map so criminals have fewer escape avenues.

    If it's easier to police, you then need fewer cops.

    Predicting WHO is going to commit a crime is another story, but understanding what locations are more vulnerable and why doesn't have a down side that I can see.

  • widget||

    SQL is racist.

  • Pi Guy||

    Nah. Ony the Delete Queries.

  • General Butt Naked||

    Oh man, fun times in Scranton PA. Here's what happens when the money's all gone.

    Sure pubsec unions, get a many injunctions as you can, it doesn't mean you're getting paid. Sorry, no money left, leeches.

    Over/under on the time it takes some roided up cop to shoot a bank teller when she won't cash his (worhtless) paycheck?

  • sloopyinca||

    Over/under on the time it takes some roided up cop to shoot a bank teller when she won't cash his (worhtless) paycheck?

    More likely: cops tell residents they cannot guarantee their safety, robberies increase and the state steps in with "emergency funds" to pay cops and firefighters.*

    *And their overblown pensions, of course.

  • ||

    More likely: cops tell resident http://www.ceinturesfr.com/cei.....-c-14.html s they cannot guarantee their safety, robberies increase and the state steps in with "emergency funds" to pay cops and firefighters.*

  • widget||

    OK sweeterjar, I clicked on the link. It's a French apparel website. We're thinking out of the box here now. Are you suggesting that if police and firefighters wore expensive French belts and jeans they'd be too preoccupied with themselves to interfere with ordinary citizens going about their business?

  • Archimedes||

    So Joe from Lowell is back?

  • Archimedes||

    Portlandia is a documentary.

  • Archduke PantsFan||

  • widget||

    Linky no worky Pantsfan. You're way outside the box. Beyond French.

  • Archduke PantsFan||

  • widget||

    Residents in Middleborough have voted to make the foul-mouthed among them pay fines for swearing in public.

    Massachusetts, PantsFan. No one will be set on fire for saying FUCK in public. Unlike the rest of the world, MA is trending libertarian, century by century.

  • Archduke PantsFan||

    Does your town have a local talk radio show where they suggested this might be a good idea for your town?

  • widget||

    There's a public radio station here. They suggest things too, but not that one yet. I live in Pasadena California. The City council recently took one of their suggestions and made it a crime for a supermarket cashier to put my groceries in a plastic bag. That was perfectly OK last month, this month its a crime. CA doesn't have the same history as MA. When I look at MA going from burning people at the stake for blasphemy to giving them giving them a $20 fine for saying FUCK, I get a tiny spark of optimism. CA's going downhill.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    What a bunch of arrogant fellatists. I mean, what kind of a rectal cavity move is that?

  • ant1sthenes||

    Orwell's always a good read

    Not really on any sort of topic; I've just been enjoying reading his disturbingly prescient essays lately. "Politics and the English Language" and "Notes on Nationalism" are great, of course, but "James Burnham and the Managerial Revolution" and "You and the Atomic Bomb" were also very insightful, and new to me.

  • Elphie||

    I read some of it at the link you gave, and "Politics and the English Language" does not seem dated at all. All the bad writing habits he describes are just as prevalent now as they were then. It seems that nowadays most of the hand-wringing over bad use of English is regarding Twitter-style writing, but bad academic/intellecual writing is still a much bigger problem, because a lot of people actually mistake it for good writing and borrow its awful features for their own writing. And if you plan to attend college, there is no escape from bad academic writing. Sooner or later some professor will assign you some shitty, pretentious book to read and demand you pretend that it's brilliant and important when you write your essay about it.

  • tee shirt pas cher||

    In CompStat recent crime data are plotted on a city map as a way to identify crime “hotspots” to which more police are deployed. CompStat is credited with dramatically reducing crime in cities where it was implemented.

  • jason||

    That was a tom cruise movie which handle the crime before it happen this scheme also looks to help the law before crime happens.

  • Elphie||

    Your childlike attempt to disguise your spam as a relevant comment is adorable.

  • db||

    Their model predicted that 59 percent of gang crimes would occur within two blocks of a border between two gangs and 87.5 percent would occur within about three blocks.

    That's funny; I've played Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas too!

  • Rasilio||

    Did ya now, and that told you the exact percentages of gang crimes that would occur within each block?

    A variation on this criticism has been mentioned several times already but there is one central flaw to it.

    Sure, everyone knows most gang crime will occur near borders of gang territories. It just doesn't take a genuis to figure that out, however if you left it up to simple observation with no statistical analysis you might conclude that the border hotspot was 1 block, 2 blocks, 3 blocks, or n blocks. Further, you would not know if there were relative hotspots along that corridor or if it was likely to be evenly spread out along the border.

    Simply knowing that gang violence will be more likely to occur along a border doesn't tell you very much useful data, however knowing that about 85% of it will occur within 2 blocks and these 5 locations serve as hotspots within that zone allows you to very efficiently allocate scarce policing resources not with the goal of catching criminals but preventing the crimes from ever occurring in the first place.

  • Ron Bailey||

    R: well said. Thank you.

  • Dajake||

    In our Brave New World, isn't merely existing the ultimate crime?

  • JoshSN||

    Thank you for the interesting article with links to the source material.

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