Seattle Police Department expands crime forecasting program

SEATTLE -- Since February, Seattle Police Department officers patrolling the east and southwest parts of the city have been getting daily "crime forecasts" showing where and when crime is most likely to happen. Now, the department is taking that program citywide.

Mayor Mike McGinn announced the expansion of the program May 17. The software, called PredPol, uses crime data to mark maps with 500-foot-by-500-foot red squares to highlight crime patterns.

Officers will now spend at least two hours of each shift patrolling those areas.

Sgt. Christi Robbin, who oversees the program, said it helps put officers in the right place at the right time to prevent crimes.

"As an officer, I may know a particular spot in a neighborhood has had some burglaries, but I might not intuitively know they're regularly happening at 6 p.m. on a Tuesday," Robbin said said in a press release.

That's why she said it is now more important than ever for Seattle residents to call 911 to report a crime or suspicious behavior. The more data PredPol has, the better crime forecasts it can create.

There have been concerns the program could be used to target specific communities and people, but Robbin said PredPol only looks at locations and times of crimes, not who is committing them. And, McGinn has said in the past the program actually removes bias from policing.

Example of a PredPol crime forecasting map. (Courtesy of Seattle Police Department)