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Is predicting crime the next frontier in policing?

It’s a question Anaheim police officials constantly ask. How can they do a better job of preventing and solving crime?

Once a month, about 50 police leaders gather to discuss crime data and brainstorm the ways to address that question, which is the core of their mission.

This month, Police Chief John Welter focused for a few minutes on the next frontier – predicting crime.

New software soon to hit the market analyzes five years of crime data to predict hotspots. It looks at location, weather, time of day, time of year and more. The idea: know when and where to deploy officers so they can be there when criminals arrive.

“We have an outstanding Crime Analysis Unit,” Welter said. “But it never hurts to look at new ideas.”

Violent and gang crime is down slightly in early 2013, but robberies, stolen cars and pedestrian accidents are rising.

The number of people hit by cars rose 28 percent, to 182 in 2012. Ten people have been killed since January 2011 – nine between Anaheim Boulevard and Knott Avenue. Fifty seven percent of the collisions resulted in minor or no injuries.

Lt. Mark Cyprien said more people are likely walking or riding bicycles due to the economic downturn. “These people are interacting more with vehicles, which increases the likelihood of pedestrian-related accidents,” he said.

The Police Department is writing more tickets in areas where incidents happened. Officials are also looking at traffic patterns and engineering to find other ways to protect pedestrians.

During a burglary discussion, Crime Analyst Danielle Martell said there have been 194 residential burglaries so far this year. While digging into the data, she discovered residents on the same street where a burglary occurred are twice as likely to be a victim within a week.

In response, volunteers are distributing fliers in neighborhoods like Cerritos Boulevard, between Katella Avenue and Euclid Street, where burglars recently hit 13 homes. Although police have made arrests, they are also increasing surveillance.

One idea broached at the meeting: Can police volunteers go talk to neighbors? Many were in homes where windows were left ajar, though a few burglars smashed windows.

Knowledge is power, and in Anaheim, it’s used to thwart crime and protect residents.

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