Predicting Crime: Orange County Investigators One Step Ahead Of Crooks

DANA POINT (CBSLA.com) – An unfamiliar car was parked in front of Wayne Aegerter’s Dana Point home on a late morning this spring.

“We got a lot of house cleaners around here, so I’m thinking maybe it’s a house cleaner,” Aegerter said.

Aegerter had no idea it was a getaway car for three men suspected of burglarizing the home of his next-door neighbor, Tillie Melilli.

“I walked in, and I could not believe it,” Melilli said. “They had taken a crowbar to the back window, the sliding glass door, it was completely shattered.”

After ransacking her home, taking cash and some jewelry, the suspects ran out with the loot. Orange County Sheriff’s Department deputies were already parked in front of Melilli’s home.

“All of a sudden, there were five police cars here, and they got the guys,” neighbor Patrick Scott said.

Neighbors say it was like the deputies knew exactly where and when the men would strike.

“To be able to pinpoint it that day, I mean, it was a lucky day,” neighbor Monica Scott said. “I couldn’t believe it. They said we knew they were gonna be here on this street.”

It wasn’t luck. The Orange County Sheriff’s Department is honing a new tool: predicting crime.

Twenty-nine miles away, in a corner of the Sheriff’s Department headquarters in Santa Ana, six investigators work full time to find a pattern in the property crime wave sweeping Orange County.

“We’re looking at criminal activity from the different systems we have access to,” Sgt. Chad Baker said.

The crime analysis unit tracks dates, times and crimes to come up with an algorithm to try to crack the criminals’ code before they strike again.

“We are trying to identify what’s happening when it’s happening and where it’s happening,” Baker said.

Every crime across Orange County is represented, as it’s happening, by a colored dot.

“Burglaries are happening over here, thefts are happening over here, vandalisms are happening over here,” Baker explains.

Deputies won’t say exactly how they ended up parking in front of the house before the thieves broke in, but neighbors are glad they did.

“I think we all feel a lot safe knowing they got a program where they can see into the future; that’s good stuff,” Scott said.

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