Purdue researchers develop tool to track crime patterns and trends

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A new crime-tracking tool designed to stop crime before it happens could potentially save the lives of police officers. The tool has gotten attention after one IMPD officer was killed last week and another was wounded just Monday night.

The software program written in a Purdue lab may become as important to police as the laptop or two-way radio. It took more than four years to create the program called “Valet,” but it’s already being deployed to police agencies in several states.

Professor David Ebert led the team of researchers at Purdue’s Homeland Security Center of Excellence.

“It’s basically a way for them to get a better understanding of a situation they’re about to find when they knock on that door,” Dr. Ebert said.

Red spots on a map show police where, when and what types of crimes have been committed -- down to the street. “Valet” uses police data, court records and even social media to track crime patterns and trends that can then be used by police to beef up patrols during different times of the day and week.

“An application like this becomes invaluable for an officer to have this type of pertinent information before approaching a situation,” Purdue doctoral candidate Abish Malik said.

And Purdue police said while the program doesn’t give the same results as typical methods, it helps cover gaps.

“It allows us to practice intelligence-led policing and also predictive policing. (It) allows us to patrol smarter,” Purdue police captain Eric Chin said. “It can’t replace traditional policing, but it allows us to focus on hotspots on campus.”

It may become an important, high-tech tool to fight crime before it even happens -- perhaps while saving the lives of police officers.

Purdue researchers developed “Valet” through a federal grant through the Department of Homeland Security. Purdue said that IMPD is also looking at the software for its officers.

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