SANTA CRUZ A couple of Santa Cruz entrepreneurs are predicting success with their new crime-prevention business.
Attorney Caleb Baskin and Councilman Ryan Coonerty have taken the experimental "predictive policing" program used by the Santa Cruz Police Department and created software that they hope to sell to law enforcement agencies around the nation. The duo, who founded the co-working business NextSpace, say they've raised more than $1 million so far to fund their newest venture.
"Officers can use this to inform decisions and dedicate specific resources to specific areas," Baskin said. "This can help direct the officers' patrol time so they can deter or actually catch someone in the act."
PredPol, the name of their software, is based on an analytics model developed by a group of researchers, including mathematician George Mohler of Santa Clara University. The model used data gleaned from a study six years ago at the Los Angeles Police Department.
The LAPD, which started testing the model in its Foothill Patrol Division in November, has seen a 36 percent drop in burglaries and a 13 percent reduction in overall crime since then, according to Coonerty. By comparison, crime is up 2 percent citywide, he said.
Santa Cruz police analyst Zach Friend learned about the model in October 2010 and began working with Mohler last year to test it at the Santa Cruz Police Department.
In the year since the test program started in Santa Cruz, burglaries have declined by 19 percent, Friend said.
The program has gained international media attention and the attention of law enforcement agencies nationwide, many asking how they can get the program.
Based on such requests, Friend helped coordinate a meeting between Mohler and Baskin and Coonerty to discuss the idea of creating a business.
Baskin, 36, and Coonerty, 38, say investors who've helped fund their venture include Plantronics CEO Ken Kannappan, former eBay executive Rob Chesnut and Coonerty's brother-in-law Michel Protti, a vice president at Yahoo.
Baskin and Coonerty hope to sell the cloud-based software as a subscription program with annual rates ranging from $25,000 to $250,000 depending on the jurisdiction's population.
The Salinas Police Department, plagued by ongoing gang violence, has already signed up for the software.
Salinas Deputy Chief Cassie McSorley said her department is excited about having a new tool to help fight crime.
"We have issues with dwindling resources and we're trying to be smart about how we use those resources," McSorley said. "The real-time analysis will be a rich source of information for deployment of officers."
The software generates projections about when and where future crimes are likely to occur. Crime statistics are computed daily and fresh data is fed into the program.
Officers are shown digital maps at the beginning of each shift marked with boxes representing 500-square-foot areas that are of highest risk for future crime. They're encouraged to drive through those areas while on patrol.
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