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Recently, Rio de Janeiro’s authorities teamed with crime experts and concerned business leaders to launch a major big data based crime monitoring tool, ISPGeo, a crime-mapping technology that would help authorities better understand patterns of illicit activity and so optimize scarce security resources.

This tool was already applied in Rio during the Olympic Games. Criminal analysis by means of criminal hotspots is a technological solution that allows for the visualization of the exact date and locale in which each crime occurs, represented by graphic visuals. In order to integrate various databases in one single map, ISPGeo enables the identification of the type of crime, day of the week, and time range in which a determined crime is most common in each region. The intention is to facilitate the more agile and effective planning of police resources and a greater capacity for prevention, according to igarape.org.br.

The benefits of crime mapping are well known around the world. According to bloomberg.com, what stands out in Rio is not the fancy technology, but a cultural shift. A new generation of police, tech-savvy engineers and security experts has joined to mine big

data to target shifting urban trouble spots, enabling police strategists to deploy patrols across precincts that rarely shared information or coordinated policing.

Thanks to help from an independent think tank, the Igarape Institute, and seed money from the private sector, Rio state’s 78,000-strong police force, including beat cops and investigators, police can now tap data for 40 different crimes, refreshed daily.

Although the experiment in Rio has just begun, initial results are telling: Half of all robberies in metropolitan Rio occurred in just 2% of the city’s area last year, the crime statisticians found. Such findings challenge some cherished conceits about public safety and could serve to disrupt bureaucratic claques whose turf wars have stymied citywide crime fighting. One classic example in Rio is the longstanding rivalry between military police, who patrol the streets, and civil police, tasked with crime investigation.

“Crime mapping is like shining a spotlight on the city,” said Claudio Beato, secretary of Public Safety for Belo Horizonte, the capital city of Minas Gerais, the state that pioneered data-based crime analysis in Brazil. “Incredible as it seems, police often don’t know where crime hotspots are until they see them mapped out.”