Assessment of predictive policing: the case of Baden Württemberg (Germany). There are still many shady areas

The increase in burglaries in recent years in Germany has led to, among other measures, resorting to methods to predict crime (“predictive policing”) which enables forces to predict in what contexts there is a risk of such crimes in order to be able to take the necessary preventive measures to avert it being perpetrated. First Bavaria and, more recently, Baden Württemberg began to use PRECOBS[1] software produced by the Institute of Prognosis Techniques based on samples[2] and previously experimented with in Switzerland. This software is based on the idea that certain crimes (burglaries, in this case), committed in certain circumstances tend to be repeated in the same areas the following days. The success of the robbery will lead the perpetrators to regard this context as favourable for their purposes and will repeat such an action a few days later. If these crimes are identified and the police force takes the necessary measures the repetition of such crimes could be prevented.

Despite the enthusiasm these methodologies have stirred in the world of the police, there are no empirical studies which prove their efficacy beyond doubt. It is for this reason that those responsible for the pilot project “Predictive Policing P4”, initiated in Baden Württemberg on 30 October 2015 asked the Institut Max-Planck[3] for an assessment of the application of the project. The results of the assessment, carried out between the month of November 2015 and April 2016 in the police regions of Kasrlsruhe and Stuttgart, have just been published, according to the latest edition of the magazine PolizeiNewsletter[4]. The report[5] explains that during the six-month assessment period there were 183 alarms (practically all of them in urban areas, and rarely in rural areas). The police used this to take a range of preventive measures to avert the repetition of such crimes in areas near the location of these. These results were different in accordance with the areas. In some areas crime was reduced (Stuttgart) whereas in others the effect could not be perceived (Karlsruhe).

The study included an on-line survey involving 700 police officers who were related, in one way or another, with the experiment, where they were asked about their utility. The results were varied in accordance with the police structure within which they worked. In this case, 65% of the higher level members made a positive assessment of the method, at an executive and intermediate scale this stood at 57%, whereas at a basic scale only 46% regarded it as useful. Curiously, the highest percentage of professionals in favour of continuing with the experiment (62%) was in Karlsruhe, where the effect seemed open to question, whereas in Stuttgart, with a drop in burglaries during this period, only 41% were in favour.

[1] Vid. https://blog.pilpul.me/2014/08/precobs-einbrueche-und-near-repeats/

[2]Vid. http://www.ifmpt.de/

[3]Vid. https://www.mpg.de/en

[4]Vid. http://www.polizei-newsletter.de/newsletter_german.php?N_NUMBER=214&N_YEAR=2018 (it also has versions in Spanish, French and English)

[5]Vid. https://www.mpicc.de/files/pdf4/rib_50_gerstner_2017.pdf

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