So called predictive policing has long been thought of as a possibility, whether it was the Orwellian thought police or the technical wizardry highlighted in Hollywood films like Minority Report.
The project is aiming to bring the public into policing a lot more than is currently the case by using social and mobile tools as a force for good. The project team concede that the public are usually first on the scene of an incident, and are often therefore well placed to relay crucial information to officials.
Whilst the project has the capability to offer predictive policing, it's a service that has thus far remained largely untapped.
A UCLA led team highlight the potential in a recently published paper. When the mathematical model devised by the team was deployed by the LAPD, it led to a significant reduction in crime rates over a 21 month period.
A British startup is attempting to bring this predictive power inside buildings by developing a smart approach to monitoring CCTV.
The company, called ThirdEye, attempts to help retailers by augmenting CCTV screens to help operators identify potential thieves before they leave the store.
It uses a machine learning algorithm not dissimilar to that developed by a University of California, San Diego team to identify and predict the behavior of pedestrians for driverless technology.
"CCTV captures thousands of potentially useful clips everyday, such as thefts, assaults, mugging and people collapsing on the street from medical emergencies. However, due to the lack of manpower, we currently cannot analyse this footage. It's a problem that irritates me. I worked in my Dad's wholesale warehouse and at Buckingham Palace and felt powerless to see stock that I put out being stolen or being frisked when leaving work to make sure that I hadn't taken anything. My co-founder actually built CCTV software to detect copper cable thieves- it was a huge problem with hundreds of people losing out on power when these were stolen," co-founder Raz Ghafoor said recently.
"With ThirdEye we use A.I. to analyse the footage meaning we will be able to use CCTV for its intended purpose of saving lives, preventing crime and prosecuting perpetrators. We're starting with retail theft, where UK retailers alone lose £3.9bn to the problem every year," he continued.
The startup has already began trialling their system with a number of major supermarket chains, with the expectation that this will increase significantly should the trial be successful.
Eventually, the team believe their approach could also be used in other environments that deploy CCTV, including outside environments.
It's a fascinating approach that underlines the increasingly predictive approach being taken to law enforcement, and it will be fascinating to track their progress.