"There are over 180,000 felons on the loose in the United States that police can’t track," says Scott Crouch, CEO and cofounder of Mark43. And this 23-year-old Harvard grad is building a cloud-based records management and analytics system whose goal is to make policing smarter, more efficient, and more accountable. Crouch’s platform is a web app that makes it easier and faster for cops to enter arrest and incident reports, reducing a process that can take several hours on decades-old legacy systems to about 30 minutes. Mark43 then adds a layer of algorithmic intelligence, connecting data such as social media activity and phone records (obtained via warrant) to those police reports to give even patrol cops a more complete picture of a criminal or a syndicate.
The company, which was born out of a junior-year engineering class project, has taken a methodical, anthropological approach to product development. Crouch and his cofounder Flo Mayr went to West Point to get military training in network analysis and intelligence, and they and their third cofounder Matt Polega regularly go on ride-alongs with police to gauge the real-world conditions in which their clients would be using their software. It’s the only way to build respect and get the credibility that the company needs, Crouch says, and it has yielded valuable insights into how to deliver useful information to an officer whose adrenaline and heart rate may be elevated in the midst of a high-speed chase, for example. These cops, often around the same age as Crouch, Mayr, and Polega, grew up on Facebook and other consumer web services, so they resolved to give them a much more friendly interface to input and analyze data.
Mark43 is already in use by Los Angeles County Gang Taskforce and soon will be officially deployed across an entire major metropolitan department. "If we can change the way they collect data," Crouch says, "we can change the way police work is done."
In the movie Iron Man 3, Tony Stark had a new Iron Man suit that he called Mark 42 (that is, the forty-second version of the suit that he built). The company Mark43 is named after the suit—a statement that it is the next generation of crime-fighting.
[Illustration: Shawn Martinbrough, Coloring: Christopher Sotomayor]
A version of this article appeared in the March 2015 issue of Fast Company magazine.