Sgt. Charles Coleman popped out of his police SUV and scanned a trash-strewn street popular with the city’s homeless, responding to a crime that hadn’t yet happened.
It wasn’t a 911 call that brought the Los Angeles Police Department officer to this spot, but a whirring computer crunching years of crime data to arrive at a prediction: An auto theft or burglary would probably occur near here on this particular morning.
Hoping to head it off, Coleman inspected a line of ramshackle RVs used for shelter by the homeless, roused a man sleeping in a pickup truck and tapped on the side of a shack made of plywood and tarps.
“How things going, sweetheart?” he asked a woman who ambled out. Coleman listened sympathetically as she described how she was nearly raped at knifepoint months earlier, saying the area was “really tough” for a woman.
Soon, Coleman was back in his SUV on his way to fight the next pre-crime. Dozens of other LAPD officers were doing the same at other spots, guided by the crime prognostication system known as PredPol.