SKALA - Predictive Policing in North Rhine-Westphalia
Predictive policing (PP) is an umbrella term used to describe methodological processes utilised by law enforcement agencies to predict crimes and to aid in planning operational responses. Essentially, they are computer-assisted, spatially-based, probability calculations of crime. These processes have gained international popularity and have become a frequently discussed topic that has attracted the interest of policymakers and decision-makers in law enforcement circles. This article provides an insider’s assessment of the implementation of one such process, SKALA (Crime Analysis and Anticipation System), by the State Office of Criminal Investigation of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), Germany. We explain the rationales both for PP and for SKALA and explain how the latter operates in practice. Piloted in six police authorities between 2015 and 2018, the State Office assessed that SKALA was a promising technique that could assist strategic decision-making; particularly, in the allocation of scarce police resources. When it was rolled out across the state, practitioners found the system to lack sufficient detail for their needs and the State Office, in conjunction with a higher education institution and with those practitioners, took steps to generate improvements in the analytical products produced for frontline staff and these have been more readily accepted. We (I) argue that it is too early to present definitive conclusions on SKALA’s utility. We can say that as yet there is no statistical evidence to support the hypothesis that crime is reduced in NRW because of SKALA but it is interesting that a decrease in the number of burglaries has been observed in all areas (not just those in the areas where the system was applied). More research would be needed to explain why that is the case.
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