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New digital software helps guide policing areas in Portage

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Police in Portage are utilizing a new predictive software that maps out crime hotspots in the area.

Officers are then able to use the data using the software called Predpol to set up patrols in those areas.

Portage officer Brandon McMillan has pulled over plenty of drivers during his eleven-year career, but the stops on Wed., Oct. 9, 2019, in the area of South Westnedge Avenue are a little different.

"We can put the on-duty cars going on calls all day long, but they're just trying to catch up. They never get ahead of it. Where this unit, I get a chance to help out with the in-progress stuff to get the criminals captured, but then just being visible with drivers trying to prevent crashes,” McMillan said.

McMillan is using the new PredPol, predictive policing technology. It is software that shows hot spots in the city.

"Tomorrow, because there was a crime here, they may update and tell us, 'hey, you need to actually adjust and be in this area,” McMillan said.

Portage Department of Public Safety Director Nick Armold said Portage is the first department in Michigan to use the software.

Portage Sgt. Craig Begeman said data shows when police are more visible in hotspots, crime goes down.

“It's not going to predict a crime. It is simply assessing the risk that a crime could occur, so if we want to be effective we put our guys into those areas where the risk is highest,” Begeman said.

Portage public safety hired three new officers for the new program.

"We don't want to necessarily write more tickets or arrest more people. We want to be effective when we are doing that,” Begeman said.

The department is partnering with Western Michigan University to study the effort of the predictive policing technology and is expected to have a report in 2020.

Armold said the object is to find ways to optimize police resources.

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"How can we do it to best deploy our people and get the biggest bang for the buck," said Armold.

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