The Colorado State Patrol does use predictive technology in some capacity.
Algorithmic crime-fighting, based on predictive technology makes makes me nervous. Let me just say that upfront.
But the Colorado State Patrol probably predicted I would say that….
Colorado State Patrol Predictive Technology
Reading through the Colorado State Patrol, Strategic Plan 2014, I saw a paragraph mentioning how technology is utilized. On the screen shot below, it is the third yellow box called “utilizing technology.” The reference is not much, the whole paragraph is just two sentences.
The Colorado State Patrol utilizes predictive and adaptive, knowledge-based tactics to enhance our mission effectiveness. We are focused on implementing practical technologies that enable our members to be more effective and efficient in the attainment of our mission.
— Colorado State Patrol, Strategic Plan 2014 (or alternatively view the Strategic Plan 2014 at the bottom of this article).
My interest was piqued. The Colorado State Patrol uses some sort of predictive knowledge-based tactics that involves some sort of technology. As a individual who is interested in police procedure this really got me thinking about the possibilities. What sort of predictive technology court the Colorado State Patrol be using?
I searched the internet for something that would give me a clue. I stumbled onto the Adventos Consulting website. Judging from its website it looks like the majority of the business is information management. One part of their website does claim it offers predictive policing capabilities. Nowhere on the website does it provide an explanation to what predictive policing is. The website has rotating banners at the top (that black strip) where at least one employees of the Colorado State Patrol gave an anonymous endorsements. For what services this anonymous endorsement is for, is not clear. The company portrays it as a general endorsement, rotating it to different pages of the website.
By itself, the Adventos site does not really substantiate a claim the Colorado State Patrol uses predictive technology. The endorsement could be about Adventos’ organizational capabilities. But that begs the question, why would there be an anonymous endorsement from the Colorado State Patrol for something as benign as software to help the agency better organize and identify its files? This is one of those things that only the Colorado State Patrol and Adventos could answer.
Anyway, the Adventos site is not the only evidence we have. The Colorado State Patrol gives us another piece of evidence as it brags about it in its strategic plan (see screenshot above). With those two documents taken together the argument becomes much stronger that the Colorado State Patrol uses some sort of predictive technology. Similar clues have popped up in Arizona that could lead one to believe law enforcement is using predictive technology there.
Public Records Request – A Contradictory Answer
I wanted more information. What could this cool technology that the Colorado State Patrol do? So I did what I normally do and I filed an Public Records request with the Colorado State Patrol. Since the paragraph heading in the 2014 Strategic Plan is called “utilizing technology,” I phrased my request around that. My request asked for any and all documents related to predictive technology used by the Colorado State Patrol.
To my surprise, the Colorado State Patrol responded that “does not utilize a predictive technology.” Flat out end of story. According to the response to my public records request, they do not use the term “predictive technology,” but they do not have any responsive documents related to it either.
Really? Because from my reading of the 2014 Strategic Plan, it seems that is exactly what they utilize, predictive technology. To paraphrase, the Colorado State Patrol “utilizes technology,” and that technology utilizes “predictive and adaptive, knowledge-based tactics.” Maybe it is me. Maybe there is something I am just not getting because it seems pretty clear to me, at least from the Colorado State Patrol’s own strategic manual, that predictive technology is being used in some capacity.
Furthermore, after digging a little deeper, some of their other materials flat out contradict the assertion that the Colorado State Patrol does not use the term “predictive technology.” In the Colorado State Patrol 2013 Strategic Plan they use exactly that phrase “predictive technology.”
By institutionalizing processes that use predictive technology, the Colorado State Patrol has the opportunity to rapidly adjust mission-critical strategies and resource deployment.
Ok. Well I guess it is not me after all. Phew. I am glad to know it is not me who is having the problem reading. But where does that put us with the public records request? I am willing to give the Colorado State Patrol the benefit of the doubt and this was an honest mistake. Records custodians have a tough job. They are responsible for an enormous amount of documents. The second request is in with the modified language, so we’ll see how that comes out.
It will be interesting to see how the Colorado State Patrol utilizes predictive technology.
What is Predictive Policing or Predictive Technology?
There is not a whole lot of academic information on predictive policing, in part because predictive analytics is such a young field in and of itself.
Probably the best definition I could find of this mysterious topic came from the RAND Corporation, a non-profit global policy think tank.
Predictive policing is the application of analytical techniques—particularly quantitative techniques—to identify likely targets for police intervention and prevent crime or solve past crimes by making statistical predictions.
— Predictive Policing, RAND Corporation, at *5.
Through an analysis of existing academic papers, vendor literature, and police use of predictive analytics the RAND Corporation came up with four types of predictive policing.
- Predicting crimes – forecasts places and times with an increased risk of crime
- Predicting offenders – potential for an individual to re-offend in the future
- Predicting perpetrators identities – profiling likely offenders
- Predicting victims of crimes – identify groups or, in some cases, individuals who are likely to become victims of crime.
— Predictive Policing, at *6.
Some law enforcement agencies who employ predictive analytics may use one or all of these tactics to aid in their investigations. Each law enforcement agency is different and may choose different strategies that will assist with their unique situation.
But why do law enforcement agencies need software? Ask an experienced law enforcement officer where crimes are likely to take place, who could be a potential offender, and who is likely to be a victim and they probably could give you an answer. That knowledge is based off of personal experience and instincts, not statistical data.
That is where the computers and the number crunching software come into play. The computer can combine the experiences of all of the officers, across time, and create a master list, of sorts. Also, the software will not forget. Details will not fall through the cracks like they can with humans.
Predpol, software that is created to predict property crimes, is developed based on an algorithm that’s used to predict earthquakes, according to Comptuerworld.
Other algorithms used by other companies may be developed differently, but I think it is interesting to think about technology used to predict earthquakes being applied to crime.