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Mayor Mike McGinn.

The Seattle Police Department is hoping to keep the city safe by using data that better predicts where crime may happen.

Mayor Mike McGinn announced today that on Sunday the city rolled out a “Predictive Policing” software in the East and Southwest Precincts.

The software inputs historical crime data from 2008 into an algorithm that predicts where and when crime is likely to occur to a geographic area as small as 500 x 500 feet. It’s estimated to be twice as effective as a human data analyst working from the same information.

Officers will be provided with the forecasts before each watch shift. They will know specific locations within their sectors where the data shows crime is more likely to occur based on past history. Officers use 70 percent of their time responding to calls and the other 30 percent patrolling.

“The Predictive Policing will help us figure out how to intelligently using the 30 percent proactive time,” McGinn said.

A screengrab from “Predictive Policing” software used in Chicago.

Built on the same model for predicting aftershocks following an earthquake, the software was designed at UCLA and piloted by the Los Angeles Police Department for one year, reducing crime by 13 percent. It’s being used by other police departments around the nation.

“Predictive Policing” does not use names or any other identifying data — just date, time, location and type of crime.

“This will help remove bias from the equation,” McGinn said. “The software helps take that out.”

The East and South Prescints were chosen on a volunteer-basis. The city plans to test the new software for eight weeks and expand after that. This is part of McGinn’s SPD “20/20 Vision for the Future” under Initiative 14, which encourages using data-driven practices for deployment.

“This will help us get the community involved,” McGinn said. “We’ll be able to take a look at locations and work with the community to make crime prevention changes, whether it’s environmental, lighting or fences.”

The software will cost the city $73,000 with a $45,000 subscription fee every year. Both McGinn and police chief John Diaz said it was a smart investment, and that the cost is about the same to pay one police officer.

“This is an incredibly exciting time in policing,” Diaz said. “Being able to take all the data and use it in such a way we are able to then predict where crime is going to happen, that’s incredible.”

The City of Tacoma is also rolling out the software.

Previously on GeekWire: Seattle mayor pulls plug on controversial drone program 

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