By Linda Hoang, Edmonton Journal, December 22, 2008 EDMONTON —
The creator of software that’s helping keep Edmonton Transit users safe, by predicting crime before it happens, has won a $10,000 prize to improve and expand into other forms of crime prevention.
The Daily Crime Forecast, which won NAIT’s novaNAIT Technology Commercialization Challenge, has been helping ETS security stop crimes before they even occur for almost three years.
Since the innovative system was implemented in January 2006, there has been a marked increase in the number of officers showing up at a location before an incident happens. “It looks to the future to try and predict what’s going to happen tomorrow, instead of what occurred yesterday,” Stephane Contre, the system’s creator said. “And that’s really the difference in what we see in normal crime software today.” “The forecasting model tells us where to be and when we get there, lo and behold, we find issues occurring,” said Ron Gabruck, ETS director of safety and security. “We arrive at that location because we believe something is going to occur, as opposed to a call coming in and us reacting to it.” Gabruck said the system uses a “data mining technique” that takes location and time statistics and puts it together to form a map showing where and when crime will occur, so officers can be there. Crime has gone down in and around Edmonton Transit stations in the past year, he said. The forecasting system, which he said is the first of its kind in Canada, has contributed to that. “I talk to other transit organizations and they all have intelligence-led models but the difference between this one and the run-of-the-mill model is that this is a proactive forecast versus a reactive,” Gabruck said. “I believe that it is the first of its kind.” Contre said his system dramatically changes the way crime is handled. “We are usually there before the crime happens and the trouble happens. When (our patrons) go to a certain area where they feel uncomfortable because of safety and security reasons, they will probably see officers there because now we’re deploying to those spots knowing that something might happen,” he said.
Contre will use the $10,000 to commercialize and expand his product. He hopes it can eventually be used for other forms of crime prevention. “People have approached me saying, 'Well, this could be used for accidents, predicting accidents ... maybe predicting where EMS calls are going to be done,’ ” Contre said. “So it could be applied in many, many ventures and that’s what I hope novaNAIT will provide me, the opportunity to explore those avenues of where it can be used in the future.
“I can try to put my product out there and help the community and make the world safer because of something I created from scratch.”