A System that Predicts Crime

Ingmar Nieuweboer
May 15th 2016

Clubs, bars, cafes and the streets that connect them are the hotspots for a night out. Occasionally, the combination of crowded spaces and alcohol usage can cause unpleasant situations, such as aggressions. To prevent acts of aggression, a new smart surveillance system is being tested in Stratumseind, a street of Eindhoven with the longest concatenation of nightlife venues in the Netherlands. This new system can identify a growing conflict and direct the police to it, before anyone could throw a punch.

In Stratumseind about 800 incidents take place each year, in 400 of them violence is used. To make this nightlife area safer the local government started the project Living Lab. On five spots, posts have been erected with motion detection cameras, 3D sound sensors and other measurement technology. Each sensor specializes in certain expression of behavior. For example, if the cameras see the same individual walking up and down the street, then they might identify this person as a pickpocket. The 3D sound sensors can detect a verbal aggression before the cameras have detected any visual aggression. They can also hear the difference between insults and cries of joy.  CityPulse is the system that's being used to identify aberrant behavior. The system even keeps track of social media. If, for instance, football hooligans announce to trash the street, then CityPulse will inform the police.

In the long run, the ambition is to make yearly predictions. "Other than motion, sound and the amount of visitors we are also comparing the data of the weather, the position of the moon, the alcohol consumption and the origin of the partygoers with the police reports. That way we hope, in time, to recognize certain patterns, and make predictions like: on day X with weather type Y half of the normal amount of incidents occur" says the project leader, Tinus Kanters.

Stratumseind has been a central hub for experiments akin to this one. On King's Day, Kinect Cameras with special software were used to identify the emotions of the passersby. Together with Philips there are ongoing experiments, testing different streetlights to see which hue makes people less violent. And there are plans to spread a scent of oranges, as it is scientifically proven that it has a calming effect on people.

Just like the three psychics who envision a murder 15 minutes before it happens in the science fiction movie Minority Report, CityPulse creates a short timeframe for the police to arrive on the crime scene before any crime has been committed. Few things are as unambiguously virtuous as crime prevention, but can we handle this amount of surveillance power?

Source: Nieuwe Revu. Image: Shutterstock

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