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Miami Police Want to Use Experimental Software to "Predict" Crime


Can criminal offenses be predicted? That's the question many police departments all over the country—including the Miami Police Department—are pondering with the testing of powerful new computer programs. According to a new report from The Miami Herald , the MPD is in the process of requesting "HunchLab," one such program which can allegedly show law enforcement where crimes will occur before they happen.

HunchLab is result of a new federal grant that was accepted by the MPD last November. The deal is not finalized yet, but if passed by the city commission, the proposal will bring on Professor Rob Guerette of Florida Internal University evaluate the department for HunchLab's use. HunchLab uses multiple streams of information to predict the places and times where certain crimes are likely to occur.

Factors that HunchLab calculates to produce results include:

  • Existing crime data
  • School calendars
  • Community paycheck schedules
  • Weather reports
  • Social media posts

The Herald reports that the department is hoping that the proposed software can assist them with property crimes. As it stands, the MPD's clearance rate on robberies, auto thefts, and home burglaries is around half the national average.

The Future of Policing?

While it may seem like science-fiction, other crime-predicting computer programs are being used all over the country. The Los Angeles Police Department, for instance, use a program called PredPol that has been so successful in preventing property crimes, they're now offering it to other departments. After using PredPol in the three month trial period, the Atlanta Police Department reported a nearly 10% drop in crime in the zones that PredPol analyzed.

Even the Miami-Dade robbery division is already using an IBM program called Blue PALMS that helps them re-approach cold case robberies by helping detectives create suspect lists from newly-collected information. Still, the MPD does not expect a magic fix-all with HunchLab. Lt. Sean MacDonald, who wrote the grant application to get HunchLab, told The Herald that the program would be policing tool—not a solution all its own. "It doesn’t replace actual police work," he said. "It’s policing with smarter technology."

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