(Bloomberg View) -- Whenever violent crime gets out of hand in Rio de Janeiro, as it frequently has, the public glare has fallen on the harried police force. The overtaxed lawmen's familiar refrain: "Police are not omnipresent," a disclaimer that doubled as a labor grievance. The only way to keep up with the city's busy criminals, so the argument went, was for authorities to put more boots on the ground and allow cops to power up to keep pace with the bandits' increasingly sophisticated arsenal.

Now, thanks to long overdue tech-based breakthroughs in police practices, the tired tropes about public safety could soon be history. Recently, Rio's authorities teamed with crime experts and concerned business leaders to launch a major data-based crime monitoring tool, ISPGeo, that allows police to scope out crime in Brazil's signature city at the click of a mouse. Properly used, experts say crime mapping will help authorities better understand patterns of illicit activity and so optimize scarce security resources. That's a potential godsend in Brazil and other conflagrated regions of Latin America, where budgets are chronically short and street violence prospers.

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