New tool promises to help Vancouver police predict property crimes
Published Friday, July 21, 2017 6:26PM PDT
Last Updated Friday, July 21, 2017 7:10PM PDT
Vancouver police have unveiled new technology designed to help officers predict when and where property crimes will be happening in the city.
And unlike the Tom Cruise movie 'Minority Report,' it doesn’t require psychic abilities to function – just a little math and a steady stream of fresh crime statistics.
Chief Adam Palmer said the predictive model will be constantly learning and sending forecasts to patrol officers through the dashboard computer in their cruiser, which used to merely map where crimes had recently occurred.
"We have now moved well beyond that," Palmer told reporters Friday.
"Instead of just informing officers where crimes happened two hours ago, we're now able to tell them where crime is predicted to happen two hours from now."
A six-month pilot project that launched in April 2016 saw impressive results, according to police. While neighbouring municipalities were seeing increases in property crime, Vancouver saw dips of up to 27 per cent compared to monthly averages from previous years.
When officers receive predictions about crime in a neighbourhood, which can be honed into an area as small as three or four homes, they can rush over and either deter potential thieves with their presence or spot prolific offenders in the area. Palmer said officers nabbed some ex-convicts who were breaking their release conditions, such as bans on carrying break-in tools, during the pilot project last year.
Unfortunately, the system can't be used to predict and prevent violent crimes, at least not yet.
"We haven't seen the same sort of successes when we tried to look at it for violent crime," Palmer said.
"Crimes against persons are not quite as predictable, whereas property crimes tend to show the same patterns over and over again."
Residents who spoke with CTV News expressed a mix of interest and concern about the project; one woman, who lives in Burnaby but was on a walk in East Vancouver, said she's worried officers could start profiling people in the pursuit of preventing crime.
"Some folks who don't mean any harm might be approached if they seem suspicious without any good reason. So that would be my main concern, creating a culture of surveillance," she said.
The technology is the first of its kind in Canada, but other municipal police detachments have already expressed interest.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Sheila Scott