Friday, November 2, 2012

Predictive Policing: Predicting a Crime Before it Happens

Yep, predictive policing.  If you're thinking it sounds a lot like Tom Cruise's Minority Report, you're not too far off.  Predictive policing is very real, but don't be worrying about "precogs" just yet.  

Brian Heaton, of govtech.com, states that "in the future, behavioral data and clues from virtual interactions may help cops stop bad guys before they've even drawn up a plan" he also notes that "in reality, the process is similar to economic forecasting where different factors are compiled to build a statistical model to predict outcomes."

Noah Fritz, past president of the International Association of Crime Analysts, said "we all have routines, and if we make better sense of those routines I think we can then predict and forecast how many days out a person is going to commit another crime."

Though I think the goals are interesting from a pure-science perspective, I find the practical implementation of such a system nearly impossible, not to mention ethically questionable.  For example, in order to predict the behavior of a single individual, one needs detailed data of his/her unique behavioral history.  In order to get that data, intrusive, privacy-violating measures, including a variety of surveilance-based observational techniques, are likely needed.  

On top of that, if the overarching goal of a predictive crime program is to gain the ability to predict when any particular individual will predict a crime, then the intrusive measures mentioned above would have to be applied to all citizens, which would undoubtedly create moral outrage to say the least.

I encourage you to read the full article for yourself here.  

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