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WA Police use business intelligence to fight crime

Heat maps show crime hotspots in the state

Western Australia Police have reduced crime through the use of predictive analytics and GPS maps which show crime hotspots in the state.

Speaking at the SAS Forum in Sydney, WA Police's director of strategy and performance, Shaun Hodges, told delegates that by using business intelligence (BI) it has been able to build up a picture of crimes committed over the past five years.

“Assaults peak in summertime because of increased alcohol consumption and more daylight hours,” he said. “That’s OK, but I want to know more. One of the innovations we have looked at is forecasting crime and we’ve worked out that there are about 17,000 crimes a month in Western Australia.”

All of this information is fed into GPS maps of the state. Hodges said that it is now forecasting with relative accuracy where crimes are going to happen.

“We started an operation called Operation Safeplace where we took this [map] information, linked up with several government organisations and created a safe place to take children. From there, Mission Australia took them to their homes or into care," he said.

“As a consequence, that heap map shrunk because we were able to affect it."

Hodges added that the police have combined data from other government agencies to identify areas of social disadvantage.

Bus routes and CCTV data have also been overlaid on to the maps.

“If a crime is committed in one area, are there places around it that people can walk to easily? Most crime is opportunistic so you have to try and design out the opportunity.”

WA Police has also used the data to assign patrols to hotspot areas in a bid to increase response times when a crime occurs.

“We have to apply scientific methods to demystify data which will deliver a safer community for people in Western Australia.”

He added that the police analyse social media using text mining.

“Our crime analysts used to spend two hours every day looking at the previous day’s reports. We wrote some code which skims all of the data from the previous night so it now takes 30 seconds.”

In addition, WA Police now sends messages via Twitter or Facebook to people who have organised large parties telling them that the party is been monitored.

According to Hodges, out of control parties have decreased in the state since it started doing this.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

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