The LAPD plans to release maps showing where future crime is most likely to happen, in hopes that residents will help stop it.

Last summer, the press began reporting on a new law enforcement tactic, "predictive policing." A computer program analyzes all crime that occurs in an area and produces a map with boxes drawn around blocks where future crime is most likely. 

"Cops working with predictive systems respond to call-outs as usual, but when they are free, they return to the spots which the computer suggests," The Economist noted. "Officers may talk to locals or report problems, like broken lights or unsecured properties, that could encourage crime." The tactic coincided with a 12 percent reduction in property crime in one Los Angeles neighborhood.

The program is now coming to the Pacific Division, also known as my area of the city. And in an innovative twist, the LAPD has asked me to help out in problem spots.

The same request went out to all my neighbors. 

"LAPD Pacific Division wants to enhance the results of Predictive Policing to drive crime as low as possible," it stated:

In an effort to do this we are deploying as many resources as possible to the box areas. To further increase the effectiveness of Predictive Policing we are asking the public to spend any free time that you may have in these areas too. You can simply walk with a neighbor, exercise, or walk your dog in these areas and your presence alone can assist in deterring would be criminals from committing crime in your neighborhood.

Every day, they're going to release a new map via social media with an updated boxes so people know which cross-streets in their neighborhood need the most attention. 

This is a worthy experiment. 

Lots of Los Angeles is built in a way that reduces the presence of what Jane Jacobs would call "eyes on the street." Can this disadvantage be overcome with crowdsourcing? 

I'd change the route I take on dog walks to help out. And if lots of my neighbors do the same, it'll be a sign of civic health. We're all responsible for safeguarding our neighborhoods. 

The Los Angeles Police Department is often less transparent than it ought to be, as evidenced by its refusal to turn over information about its license plate scanner program. Angelenos would be furious if they knew how pervasively their vehicular comings and goings are recorded and stored by law enforcement. But the LAPD does praiseworthy things too. This latest example is a good illustration of how transparency can help law enforcement to improve public safety. And if the experiment works, needed eyeballs will be dispersed to at-risk areas without the use of Orwellian surveillance cameras being installed all over the neighborhood.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A photo of a cyclist on the streets of Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood.
    Equity

    Can Historic Preservation Cool Down a Hot Neighborhood?

    The new plan to landmark Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood aims to protect more than just buildings: It’s designed to curb gentrification.

  2. A cat lays flat on a bench at a park on the outskirts of Tokyo.
    Life

    Why Don't Americans Use Their Parks at Night?

    Most cities aren’t fond of letting people use parks after dark. But there are good lifestyle, environmental, and safety reasons to reconsider.

  3. Rows of machinery with long blue tubes and pipes seen at a water desalination plant.
    Environment

    A Water-Stressed World Turns to Desalination

    Desalination is increasingly being used to provide drinking water around the globe. But it remains expensive and creates its own environmental problems.

  4. a photo of a woman covering her ears on a noisy NYC subway platform
    Life

    My Quixotic Quest for Quiet in New York City

    In a booming city, the din of new construction and traffic can be intolerable. Enter Hush City, an app to map the sounds of silence.   

  5. Design

    What Cities Can Do to Help Birds and Bees Survive

    Pollinators—the wildlife that shuffle pollen between flowers—are being decimated. But they may still thrive with enough help from urban humans.

×