The Power of GIS and Predictive Analysis

The movie Minority Report had a premise of police arresting people for crimes that they would have committed, had they been given the chance. A trio of savants who were able to see the future would report impending criminal behavior to the authorities. In a case of life echoing art, police in Los Angeles are doing something similar.

When you get a computer information systems degree, your course of studies is unlikely to include seminars on psychic abilities. But it doesn’t have to. What LA did was use a technique called predictive policing. Law enforcement organizations undertake extensive data analysis, using geographic information systems (GIS) software, to determine where criminals are most likely to next strike. Then they send officers to the locations to intercept the perpetrators.

Los Angeles is by no means the first region that has made use of such predictive analysis. One of the tip-offs to them was research that showed how GIS software could show clusters of methamphetamine labs in the city of Colorado Springs. The researchers had correlated socioeconomic data with the locations of seized labs and sites of toxic byproducts that were the remnants of the meth manufacturing. It didn’t take too long before law enforcement officials began to see the potential in the techniques.

They could use data correlations, statistical analysis, and upwards of thousands of types of data to predict the future. The work essentially examines places where types of crimes occur and find factors that can help show similar locations. Some police departments have seen remarkable success using GIS and predictive analysis. As AP writes of predictive policing in California:

In the San Fernando Valley, where the program was launched late last year, officers are seeing double-digit drops in burglaries and other property crimes. The program has turned enough in-house skeptics into believers that there are plans to roll it out citywide by next summer. “We have prevented hundreds and hundreds of people coming home and seeing their homes robbed,” said police Capt. Sean Malinowski.

It isn’t a long jump from predictive analysis in policing and predictive analysis and GIS in business. Companies can analysis geographic regions in conjunction with related socio-economic and other factors to pinpoint good locations to find new customers, identify areas with unusually high levels of product problems, or better allocate business resources. Master analysis using location as a way to tie it together and there is no end to how you can help other departments in your company improve strategy and operations.

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