As I was listening to the radio on the way to work this morning (gotta give a shout-out to Jack and John…..one of the best morning shows around) there was a commercial for a product that used the tag line “if you can predict it, then you can prevent it”. This got me to thinking; is this true?
In the world of crime prediction there is very rarely a cut and dry approach to predicting crime. I’ve found that some of the best applications for crime analysis take place in the arena of “ish”. Ish is one of the great words that I learned when doing math in high school. My calculus teacher would call on me and I would reply with something like -2.5ish. In math there always going to be rounding discrepancies depending on how far out you want to go. Another example would be Pi. Pi has an infinite amount of decimal numbers that follow the main number, but rather than rattle on for eternity most math geeks just say 3.14…….ish.
Crime analysis is the same way. I can tell precinct commanders that this is the best place to be during this time frame because it will exponentially raise you chances for either 1) catching a bad guy 2) preventing a crime. That is what police departments need nowadays; good sound direction to offset budget cuts and low morale. In my research class we are looking at methodologies for our dissertations. Part of developing that methodology is to first understand your strengths and weaknesses. Obviously, you want to play into your strengths and develop your weaknesses, to a point. I think it’s better to focus on your strengths. Let me explain.
Your strengths may put you into the top 10% of the population as far as ability. You are really, really good at doing “x”. I think you should focus on that. If you focus on your weaknesses then you may only become “average” at those capabilities. The world is full of average people that do some task in okay fashion. Your strengths are what set you apart from everyone else. Police departments should focus on their strengths and, subsequently, crime analysts should focus on their strengths. The good crime analyst will never be able to say that they are 100% sure that a crime will occur at this place, at this time. Our strength lies in the power of “ish”. If an analyst is good at providing accurate ishes then the police department you are working for will be eternally grateful. I put the phrase “if you can predict it, then you can prevent it” in the same class as “if you build it, they will come”. Both are great catch phrases, but have more applicability in the movies then they do in real life scenarios.