Nightly News | August 20, 2011
>>> we're back with a new tactic in law enforcement that sounds like it's straight out of a sci-fi flick, predicting where and when a crime might be committed. might remind you of the thriller " minority report ." but in one california city , it's real life . we get our report tonight from nbc's peter alexander .
>> reporter: when santa cruz police received news of a possible assault this week, this sergeant was right around the corner.
>> we can't be everywhere at once. this was a neighborhood that was identified as a place that we needed extra patrols in.
>> reporter: lamoss was directed to that area by a computer program that uses up-to-the-minute data to find patterns and to predict where and when crimes might happen in the future. it's called predictive policing.
>> in this 500-by-500-foot area, crimes have been occurring that the model picked up on.
>> reporter: this is a place you're going to be revisiting. before each shift, police officers are alerted to several hot spots, locations where they'll perform extra check. here in santa cruz , early indications suggest the program is working. in the first six months of this year, there were nearly a dozen burglaries or car thefts in this parking garage alone. last month, there were none. police arrested two women in the lot casing cars. in fact, burglaries here were down 27% in july compared to the same month a year ago. nationwide, the city budgets being slashed and police forces dwindling, several cities and states are considering similar predictive policing programs including chicago, boston and los angeles .
>> departments shrink in size and we need to be more efficient in how we deploy our scarce resources.
>> reporter: a new crime-fighting strategy where the motto for police isn't just to protect but to predict and serve. peter alexander , nbc news, santa cruz , california.