Havering Police’s Minority Report-style technique triumphs
16:58 19 June 2014
In New Scotland Yard a team of highly-skilled analysts are predicting where criminals may strike in Havering.
Senior police in the borough are hailing the Minority Report-style technique, a year on from its inception, for reducing crime – particularly burglary.
There were 2,248 burglaries in the past 12 months – more than six a day – but this is a reduction of 17 per cent from the same point last year.
Det Ch Insp Phil Rickells, of Havering Police, invited the Recorder to Romford Police Station, Main Road, to see how the hi-tech predictive mapping works, six months after the technology featured on our front page.
Mr Rickells was sitting behind an unspectacular wooden desk with a rather average looking computer screen – but from his position he is able to flick through images from Met headquarters that help inform him how to stop burglars making off with residents’ possessions.
He pulls up a map of Havering. Red dots scattered about it show where burglaries have happened recently, while shaded patches show where they are likely to happen again.
Using this information, which is updated daily, he can send officers to patrol “hotspots” to either catch burglars in the act or to give police the upper hand in catching the thieves after a crime has been reported.
“Predictive mapping allows us to go where we think burglaries are going to happen.
“I don’t know how [the analysts] do it and I have no idea about the science but they look at the history and say ‘we are likely to have a burglary here’,” he said as he pointed at the spot where he would send officers that night.
“People say you never see a policeman on foot – well those are dedicated police officers going out into those areas.
“[The stats] show what we are doing is right. We have to be doing something right for a change that’s seen at least 464 fewer victims in the last 12 months.”
Mr Rickells and the team are looking at further research to see how these techniques can be honed.
“There’s research to say that if you stay around the scene of a burglary for longer you are more likely to arrest the offender,” he said. “If you take a dog with you it’s an even higher chance and if you take the eye in the sky – that’s the helicopter – it’s even higher.”
He also explained how officers are pre-empting offenders they fear may strike again by paying them a visit and letting them know that police are out there.
Mr Rickells added: “We’re also knocking on doors – what I call old-fashioned policing.”
Officers are practising “cocooning”, he said, where they create a blanket area around the site of an incident by visiting neighbours and explaining how they can prevent the same thing happening to them.
These tactics appear to be working – in January 2013 an insurance firm revealed that residents in Harold Hill, Harold Wood and Noak Hill were the fifth most likely to fall victims to housebreakers.
But, this January, the areas no longer featured in the top 20 of the MoneySuperMarket survey.
Havering Police’s borough commander Ch Supt Jason Gwillim said: “I would say it’s really difficult to say it’s down to predictive mapping alone, but we have to ask what we are doing differently now that we weren’t doing last year.
“It’s predictive mapping and that’s a tremendous success.”