- Associated Press - Thursday, March 5, 2015

PHOENIX (AP) - The Senate passed a bill to implement a pilot program to predict when and where crime will happen.

Sen. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, sponsored the bill that would allot up to $ 2 million for law enforcement agencies in Phoenix, Mesa and Lake Havasu City to purchase the predictive policing software and run the program. The software, known as Predpol, analyzes historical crime data in order to predict where crime is most likely to happen.

“It’s a mechanism to identify very high-risk places and specific times of the day,” said Larry Samuels, chief executive officer of Predpol. “So we are able to tell you when and where crime will happen.”

The software uses three to five years of aggregate crime data weighed against current police reports, Samuels said. It then puts the data through algorithms looking at criminological theory, repeat victimization and environmental constraints, he said.

“The computer’s ability to analyze data, a huge amount of data, and predict what is likely, far surpasses a single human’s ability,” he said.

Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said the technology will help police react more efficiently. “New York City showed that computers can make policing far more efficient. So I can see no reason why shouldn’t continue down that path,” he said.

Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Phoenix, opposed the bill over concerns it would take funding away from what he viewed as more important programs.

Atlanta, Los Angeles and Seattle as well as police departments in several other cities have begun using the software, Samuels said. These cities have seen crime rates drop in targeted areas by 15 to 20 percent, he said.

Mesa Police Chief John Meza called the technology “the next step in intelligence-led policing.”

The Arizona Police Association supports the creation of the pilot program in Phoenix, Mesa and Lake Havasu to see how different size cities can use the software to make better use of their officers.

“This kind of a tool helps us allocate our resources even more than they do today,” said Michael Williams, a representative for the Arizona Police Association.

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