Data mining has helped earn the Pulitzer Prize
The most prestigious journalism award this year was the Sun Florida South Sentinel for a series of articles “Above the Law: High Speed Cops.”
To investigate, reporters requested police records of SunPass checkpoints on toll roads from police stations . Each SunPass entry is marked with the exact time of the passage of the item. The police provided information without suspecting a trick.
SunPass checkpoint on a toll road The
police did not think that if you measure the distance between neighboring SunPass checkpoints and knowing the travel time between them, you can calculate the speed of the car.
The reason for the investigation was the case when in the fall of 2011 one of the Florida police was stopped by traffic police for driving at a speed of 190 km / h. As it turned out, this is far from an isolated case. Data mining more than a million records from SunPass checkpoints since 2004 revealed 793 police cars that were moving at speeds of 145-210 km / h, often after hours. The violators turned out to be a fifth of the police fleet. More than half of the cases of speeding were registered outside the patrol zone; most of the cars drove along standard routes, most likely home after work or in the morning for work.
Since 2004, at least 320 accidents have occurred with the participation of police cars, and 19 people died in them. But only one policeman ended up in prison and spent 60 days there.
The journalistic investigation caused a public outcry. The local police had to take disciplinary measures and fire several employees. In some cities in Florida, police have introduced new systems to track employees during off-hours. Most importantly, after almost a year, data mining showed a real change in the behavior of the police: they became less likely to exceed speed.
Sun Sentinel’s original method of collecting data turned out to be so effective that law enforcement agencies sent their experts to the editorial office asking them to share their experience. Perhaps they themselves will use such an algorithm to identify traffic violators.