Predictive Policing: Can Big Data Be Used To Curb Crime In The Moderrn World?

Whenever a crime happens in your area or city, it’s hard not to feel one of two things: scared or angry. People often try to find a scapegoat; some blame the police for their ineffectiveness, while others blame the lawmakers for poorly-composed laws that are ineffective in terms of stopping crime. However, most people have short memories and we soon forget the anger and fear, and then get back to living our normal lives.

However, what if I tell you that crime can be predicted and even stopped from taking place? Sound familiar? Reminds you of the movie Minority Report, right? The amazing pre-cogs had the power to see the future, which helped Captain John Anderton and his force stop crime before it happened. Would you believe me if I told you that this sci-fi vision is becoming a reality?


Well, the pre-cogs were humans that had developed amazing powers, but human being in the real world have developed amazing software that can analyze huge amounts of data and basically accomplish the same thing…. predict crime. The technology they use to accomplish this is called “Big Data”.

What is Big Data?

Credits: Ugis Riba/Shutterstock

Credits: Ugis Riba/Shutterstock

Big Data is a term used for complex algorithms that capture, store and analyze huge amounts of data that a traditional data-processing algorithm simply cannot do. It is a way of conducting predictive analysis using advanced software methods to extract meaningful value from large amounts of data.

Traditional software used in past was good at handling smaller volumes of data, but that rarely provided meaningful information to improve operational effectiveness. However, with Big Data, the size or volume of data is never a problem.

How is Big Data Used to Predict Crime?

Thanks to technology, police in the modern world have massive amounts of data in the form of a past crime database, criminal profiles, data from surveillance cameras, smartphones, biometric sensors and even social media! Whether you agree with it or not, Big Brother is snooping on you all the time! Governments around the world have huge amounts of data that can be analyzed to determine patterns and make informed predictions of coming events.


This is not just an analysis of data from the past; real-time data is also available for predictive analysis. Data from police patrolling, GPS, real-time videos, and mobile devices on police patrol vehicles is all used to predict crime.

What Kind of Prediction Does it Provide?

Don’t get too scared by this idea. This technology cannot accuse you of a crime that you might commit in the next hour. All it can do is alert the police of an area at the right time so that they may be able to prevent any untoward incident. Startups like PredPol in the US have developed a valuable software tool for the police that helps them use their patrol time more effectively. Police from several cities in the US, UK and Canada have made use of this technology and effectively stopped 30% of the crime in their areas from even occurring.


Although computers have become insanely smart in recent years, they still can’t replace the knowledge and experience of smart police officers that have self-awareness, curiosity, and intuition that can add to their investigations. The technology still requires a lot of input from experienced officers to make a wise prediction.

Crime Minority report

However, the presence of such technology should make people a bit more cautious before committing a crime. Who knows when the technology will become smart enough to predict whether you will commit a crime in the next hour? There is no telling where technology and innovation will go next.

Now, for all those out there feeling uncomfortable at the prospect of Big Brother and Big Data keeping tabs, perhaps you should think twice before committing your next crime. You never know when Captain John Anderton will suddenly kick down your door and arrest you for a crime you haven’t committed… Yet.


  1. Predictive Policing – Wikipedia
  2. Can ‘Predictive Policing’ Prevent Crime Before It Happens? – The American Association for the Advancement of Science
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About the Author:

Abhishek is a Chemical Engineer from IIT Bombay, one of the premier engineering schools in India and the world. He spent 10 years in the corporate world until reaching a point in life where he decided to find a greater purpose. He firmly believes that a good teacher is one who can make concepts simple for students to understand, thereby generating their curiosity to find out more.

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