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A Badge, a Gun, a Calculator — and a Map

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how the newest weapon in the fight against violent gang crime isn’t an advanced form of surveillance monitoring or an innovative approach to incarceration, but a mathematical algorithm that accurately predicts which gangs are most likely to be involved in a given crime based on past patterns of behavior. Are a gun, a badge, and a calculator the essential police tools of the future?, I asked.

I wrote about how the newest weapon

For predicting gang behavior, they very well could be. But, if future detectives want to bust a meth lab, they’ll need one more thing in their arsenal: a map.

Experts in the field of geospatial predictive analytics rely on algorithms and data analysis techniques to turn maps into sophisticated analysis tools. According to Fast Company’s Neal Ungerleider, this data allows analysts to do everything from anticipate terrorist activity to prevent auto theft.

Or predict where meth labs will pop up – before they arrive.

In Geography and Drug AddictionMax Lu, a professor at Kansas State University, along with his colleague Jessica Burnum, detail how they applied spatial data analysis tools to information compiled about the informal meth industry in Colorado Springs and rural Kansas. Using data from a three-year period on seized meth lab equipment and the locations of where rogue chemists dumped toxic by-products of methamphetamine manufacturing, the analysts were able to demonstrate how meth labs spread throughout a metropolitan area – and could even successfully predict where they would pop up next.

Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, are you paying attention?

Using geospatial predictive analytics to uncover gang crimes and bust meth labs are only two of the many practical uses that law enforcement agencies are beginning to rely on to combat crime. Ungerleider points to efforts that predict which suburbs are prime for gang recruitment and what routes are most likely used for cross-border drug smuggling.

So, let me amend my previous statement: future detectives, make sure you carry your badge, your gun, a calculator, and a map when patrolling the streets, both concrete and electronic.

And don’t be afraid to use them.

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