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Birmingham city leaders turn to data to predict, reduce crime

Updated: Dec. 23, 2019 at 4:18 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Birmingham Police are relying more on data to help prevent crime before it happens. Predictive policing, or PredPol software, is one strategy contributing to a reduction in violent crime, according to city leaders.

LINK: Birmingham police taking scientific approach to fight crime

"The more information we have then the more analytics that we have around crime, why it's occurring, where it's occurring, allows us to better dispatch our officers and make sure that the officers know where the predictive trends are about to be," said Councilman Hunter Williams, Birmingham City Council.

Councilman Williams leads the council’s public safety committee and believes data driven policing has lead to the most meaningful reduction of crime in his lifetime.

“Violent crime is always something that has been a problem for the city,” said Williams, a Birmingham native. “We’ve made a lot of strides and we have a long way to go.”

WBRC FOX6 On Your Side Investigators compiled information provided by Birmingham Police to track the number of homicides, where they’ve happened, and under what circumstances. An analysis of the cases resulting in arrest show most victims knew their killer. There were few random homicides in 2019. Most of the victims were black males, ranging in age from mid-teens to mid-thirties. Most homicides happened in the East or West Precincts.

“We are putting it into databases where we can hopefully predict where criminal activity is about to occur,” said Williams.

While data helps predict where crime might occur, it also helps get to the reason crime is happening, said Williams.

Policing is only part of the equation to prevent and reduce crime. Jeffrey Walker, PhD and Professor of Criminal Justice at UAB, said there will not be lasting reduction in crime until some strong changes are made in the neighborhoods where the homicides occur.

Williams acknowledges addressing crime is a multi-faceted issue. “Quality of life issues, economic opportunity, economic development within the city of Birmingham is extremely important. We are 100% focused on that as leadership in the city of Birmingham and we are going to continue to do whatever we can,” said Williams.

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