Philly police use ‘data scientists’ to target crime

    Newly educated cops are fighting crime in Philadelphia with a combination of shoe-leather police work and Excel spreadsheets.

    After learning to map crime hotspots, crunch numbers on Excel, and create data-driven solutions to reduce crime, the police department’s first class of “data scientists” graduated Thursday. 

    Research and analysis director Kevin Thomas said the department purposefully trained a sworn officer in each police district instead of importing geeks from outside.

    “An actual police officer that’s been in the district and has walked in foot beats … they already have a really intimate understanding of those neighborhoods,” he said.

    Anthony D’Abruzzo, who runs the police department’s data science program, said one analyst helped tackle crime in West Philly’s 19th District by identifying a problem establishment known as the “Corral Bar.”

    The officer, Andrew Jenkins, determined that the Corral Bar had 449 police incidents in 3 1/2 years. A similar bar down the street had only 37 in the same time period. 

    “What he did was take that information, go to the [District Attorney’s] office, [and] work with getting that liquor license removed from that bar,” said D’Abruzzo.

    In Northwest Philly’s 14th District, a data scientist has been credited with helping reduce home burglaries by 39 percent from 2012 to 2013 by mapping hotspots and directing more cops to those areas, as TechnicallyPhilly first reported.

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