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Randomized Controlled Field Trials of Predictive Policing

NCJ Number
Journal of the American Statistical Association Volume: 110 Issue: 512 Dated: 2016 Pages: 1399-1411
Date Published
13 pages

This article lays out the details of a research trial to investigate the extent to which epidemic-type aftershock sequence models of short-term crime risk can outperform the existing best-practice of hotspot maps for police officers in the field to dynamically patrol crime hotspots and reduce crime through predictive policing despite limited resources.


The concentration of police resources in stable crime hotspots has proven effective in reducing crime, but the extent to which police can disrupt dynamically changing crime hotspots is unknown. Police must be able to anticipate the future location of dynamic hotspots to disrupt them. Here, the authors report results of two randomized controlled trials of near real-time epidemic-type aftershock sequence (ETAS) crime forecasting, one trial within three divisions of the Los Angeles Police Department and the other trial within two divisions of the Kent Police Department in the United Kingdom. The authors investigate the extent to which ETAS models of short-term crime risk outperform existing best practice of hotspot maps produced by dedicated crime analysts, police officers in the field can dynamically patrol predicted hotspots given limited resources, and crime can be reduced by predictive policing algorithms under realistic law enforcement resource constraints. While previous hotspot policing experiments fix treatment and control hotspots throughout the experimental period, the authors use a novel experimental design to allow treatment and control hotspots to change dynamically over the course of the experiment. Their results show that ETAS models predict 1.4-2.2 times as much crime compared to a dedicated crime analyst using existing criminal intelligence and hotspot mapping practice. Police patrols using ETAS forecasts led to an average 7.4 percent reduction in crime volume as a function of patrol time, whereas patrols based upon analyst predictions showed no significant effect. Dynamic police patrol in response to ETAS crime forecasts can disrupt opportunities for crime and lead to real crime reductions. Publisher Abstract Provided

Date Published: January 1, 2016