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Math Professor’s Program Helps Santa Cruz Police Fight Crimes

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Santa Cruz police

Santa Cruz police motorcycle officers. (City of Santa Cruz)

SANTA CRUZ (CBS 5) — The Santa Cruz Police Department is using a new tool developed by a Bay Area math professor that aims to fight crime and save money.

The program is called “predictive policing,” and it determines where crime is likely to happen next.

Police say they have been using the experimental program for the past three weeks and find the results promising. So far, it can predict the right place and day of a crime occurring with 71 percent accuracy.

Zach Friend, the police department’s crime analyst, enters information about thefts and burglaries. The program crunches the data and comes up with a map of the probability, day of the week, and the general location where crimes will likely happen.

The model is the brainchild of George Mohler, assistant math professor at Santa Clara University. He uses the same algorithms seismologists use to predict earthquake aftershocks. Mohler said crime also has aftershocks, because thieves and robbers are creatures of convenience and habit.

Santa Cruz Police is less than a month into the six-month experiment, and officials say the predictive policing program is going well so far.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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