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Police Database Lists 'Future Criminals' 1036

Posted by timothy
from the shape-of-things-to-come dept.
Rio writes: "A Local6.com article tells us about a database that contains a list of people who police believe are likely to break the law. It features names, addresses and photographs of potential suspects --many of whom have clean slates. Since the system was introduced in Wilmington in June, most of the 200 people included in the file have been minorities from poor, high-crime neighborhoods."
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Police Database Lists 'Future Criminals'

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  • by yuggoth (85136) on Monday August 26, 2002 @01:07PM (#4141929)
    how long till the suspected criminals-to-be are arrested "just in case"?
    • by PopeAlien (164869) on Monday August 26, 2002 @01:14PM (#4142027) Homepage Journal
      We could save a whole lot of trouble by having everyone chained up and electronically monitored at birth. We could most likely achieve a zero percent crime rate. We've just got to find someone that everyone trusts to monitor the system and administer electric shocks to those suspected of contemplating bad thoughts. Someone pure of heart. We better get voting, ideally using some of those ultra secure secret electronic voting machines..
    • This already happens in the UK, under the mental health act, a person can be detained for up to 28 days to "protect themselves or others" and longer if during those 28 days psychologists determine that the person requires medical help.
    • by WCMI92 (592436) on Monday August 26, 2002 @03:00PM (#4143052) Homepage
      "how long till the suspected criminals-to-be are arrested "just in case"?"

      THAT is just a shockingly short step from this... Liberty and security...

      You know, as a moral conservative (who is a social libertarian), I WANT to like the police. I really do. They have a job I would not want. They deal with people I do not want to deal with.

      But with this sort of thing, and incidents like the Houston PD stormtrooperaid on kids at a K-Mart http://66.70.240.173/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=1598 (discussed on my site, several news articles linked to there), I don't trust them...

      I'm beginning to believe that there is little difference between the police AND the criminals anymore. And that is scary, when you consider how much more militarized the police become each year...

      Here's some advice for the law enforcement establishement on how to deal with crime (since they seem to have forgotten how)

      1. The best way to PREVENT crime is to be visible in places where crime is a possibility. This means VISIBLE patrols, not unmarked cars cowering in a blind curve on the highway that goes downhill looking for speeders.

      2. Though you'd think otherwise by where you see the most cops, MOST CRIME DOES NOT HAPPEN ON HIGHWAYS! They happen down in the city.

      3. Though it's preferable to deter crime (see visible patrols), when crime happens it's law enforcement's job to CATCH them. Not beforehand, but AFTER a crime has been comitted.

      You also might not know it, but the crime RATES in this country have been dropping for some time. Yes, there was a slight rise recently, due to economic hard times, but violent crime today is FAR lower than it was 20 years ago, and we have more people and worse economic times.

      With that said, how come there are more cops than 20 years ago? How come cities like mine, which has lost half it's population in 30 years has just as many, if not more cops? Why do cops now dress in body armor and carry weapons Rambo would have envied?

      I saw this written someplace, which puts it best:

      "When the cops talk about the war on crime and the war on drugs, everyone needs to understand that they view us, the civilians, as the enemy."

      Clearly there needs to be limits on what information that the government (remember ALWAYS that the police are an arm of the government) can collect and keep, and for how long, on someone not convicted or charged.
      • by Lemmy Caution (8378) on Monday August 26, 2002 @03:46PM (#4143370) Homepage
        One sobering statistic is the fact that, at the end of last year, one out of every 32 adults in the United States was behind bars or on probation or parole [yahoo.com]. This is ridiculous, and a far greater incarceration rate than most any other first world country. I find it difficult to understand how so many Americans can still subscribe to the rhetoric that their country is the freest.
      • 1. The best way to PREVENT crime is to be visible in places where crime is a possibility. This means VISIBLE patrols, not unmarked cars cowering in a blind curve on the highway that goes downhill looking for speeders.

        A problem is that "sucess" for policing appears to have become judged in terms of arresting people, issuing tickets. As opposed to detering and preventing crime. It is also important to ensure that police officers are themselves never considered above the law. Otherwise it's too easy for a crook hide their crimes by becoming a police officer.
  • Not suprising? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Squeezer (132342) <awilliam@mdah.st ... us minus painter> on Monday August 26, 2002 @01:07PM (#4141932) Homepage
    Statistics show that lower income minority population usually cause more crime then high income majority population.

    Why does the author act suprized with his last sentence?
    • Re:Not suprising? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by CrazyDuke (529195) on Monday August 26, 2002 @01:12PM (#4141990)
      Actually statistics show that there is actually a higher ratio of what would be crime in the high income bracket, it is just ignored. Think about the recent corporate scandels.
      • Re:Not suprising? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by thefirelane (586885)
        a higher ratio of what would be crime in the high income bracket

        Well.... no kidding!

        Seriously, can you people please stop touting this. It brings to mind a quote by Mark Twain:

        "There are three types of lies: Lies, damn Lies, and statistics"

        In all actuality, law enforcement goes after the crimes people care about, and are afraid of

        This does not include white collar crime. Think about it: Do you know what the crime rate is at your local college dorm? Probably around 100 percent (downloading mp3s is usually done illegally remember)

        But, given the police forces are finite, would you rather see the energy devoted to busting these kids, or gang members?

        So don't pretend that is is "racism" or "classism" that is causing society to go after people who: are lower income, young, a member of a minority group. It is the fact that we are more afraid of violent crime than white collar.

        If you can prove that violent crime* is more prevelant in upper income brackets, I would like to see it.


        ---Lane


        *Bear in mind however, that we even distinguish between violent crimes. We are much more afriad of say "stray bullet", "road rage" or "gang initiation" killings than "he killed his lover" types, because we are more afraid of people who kill other strangers (because that could be us) instead of someone who kills a person they know.
      • by FreeLinux (555387) on Monday August 26, 2002 @02:23PM (#4142734)
        This is utter hogwash. You'd better check your facts. Try looking through some of the statistics and reports at The Bureau of Justice Statistics [usdoj.gov]. The opposite of your statement is demonstrated again and again.

        Furthermore, many argue that not only economic minorities but, also racial minorities (so often the same) are unjustly labeled as the largest source of criminals. Again the statistics [usdoj.gov] say otherwise.

        The fact is that economic and racial minorities produce a disproportionately high volume of criminals. Additionally, and interestingly to me, the minorities are statistically the largest group of victims of crime. That means that most criminal activity is perpetrated by minorities against other minorities. This has been case throughout history and is still true today.
        • Actually statistics show that there is actually a higher ratio of what would be crime in the high income bracket, it is just ignored.

          This is utter hogwash. You'd better check your facts. Try looking through some of the statistics and reports at The Bureau of Justice Statistics. The opposite of your statement is demonstrated again and again.

          Right, so he says crime is ignored in the upper bracket, you provide stats that show a large number of murderers are ethnic/economic minorities from the people who convict them...

          If a crime was ignored by the authorities, how would it end up as part of the statistics? If the police are biased and bust minorities more than others, wouldn't that produce statistics that said most crimes are committed by minorities? Hmmm....
    • Stastics also show that people who eat breakfast are in better shape than people who skip breakfast.

      That doesn't mean that an unhealthy person will lose weight by suddenly starting to eat breakfast.

      There is a significant difference between a causitive relationship and a correlation.

      That doesn't mean anything though. You can use stastics to prove anything. 85% of all people know that.

    • Well, that is true statistically but unless we are willing to do away with "innocent until proven guilty" then the fact that certain demographics are more likely to commit crimes doesn't have any bearing.

      I can see both sides of the argument. Yes, we have the technology, both to be able to profile individuals with a reasonably high degree of accuracy and to be able to store those profiles and mine them when needed. In this way, the whole idea seems a good one because it would, ostensibly, make everyone safer.

      On the other hand, no profiling is completely neutral. There is always some bias built into the system because it is based on probabilities. And in a system where "all men are created equal" one cannot assume that certain individuals based on their race, religion, creed, whathaveyou are more likely to commit crimes, no matter how well the math may work.

      Personally, I'd rather give up a little security for more freedom. I don't think that, unless you are a declared suspect for a crime, you should be the subject of investigation.
    • And anyone who thinks that's a racist, bigoted comment is ignoring the sad truth of the ghetto. That doesn't mean crimes aren't commited at higher income brakets or whatnot, just that there is a higher chance of those crimes being commited in those lower income brackets including dem darr white folk, which isn't mentioned. And it's true in any country as well, where the minorities here aren't minorities there. South Africa is a prime example. The majority populace (which just happen to be black and poor) suffer from an extreemly high crime rate, therefor statistics say that the majority of citizens in the country are likely to commit a crime. It's not a surprise or even racist as the author vaguely implies, though neither does it apply to everybody, which is what worries me about this system a bit.
  • If you've ever handled a penny the gub'ment already has your DNA. That's why they keep them in circulation.

    Might as well send them a cheek swab now so they can clone you...

  • by Rev.LoveJoy (136856) on Monday August 26, 2002 @01:08PM (#4141940) Homepage Journal
    Does this mean we can arrest all those about to hit the karma cap for "future trolling..."

    Cheers,
    -- RLJ

    humor folks...

  • by gallen1234 (565989) <<gallen> <at> <whitecraneeducation.com>> on Monday August 26, 2002 @01:08PM (#4141944)
    Sure it might be legal but that doesn't make it wise. What I'd like to know is where do the people come from who implement these policies? I think Arthur Clarke was right when, in "The Songs of Distant Earth" IIRC, he suggested that anyone who wanted a political office was, by definition, emotionally unsuited to having that office.
  • Trend (Score:5, Informative)

    by dolphinuser (211295) on Monday August 26, 2002 @01:09PM (#4141949)
    This is part of a disturbing national trend.

    In Ohio, they're keeping a DNA database [enquirer.com] of CLEARED suspects!

    John
    • Re:Trend (Score:3, Interesting)

      by guttentag (313541)
      <SARCASM>
      How else are they supposed to get you off death row 18 years after they coerce you to confess to a crime you did not commit [nytimes.com]? Can't you see this is for your own good? We have to choose between the lesser of two evils:
      1. Keeping a DNA database of the innocent.
      2. Scaling back efforts to force false confessions, letting both innocent and guilty individuals go free.
      </SARCASM>
    • Re:Trend (Score:3, Informative)

      by antirename (556799)
      Yeah, and the FBI has a file on me. They have a file on you, most likely. Before you accuse me of having a tinfoil hat, think abouth this: the FBI just bought EVERYONE'S credit report. So now you have an FBI file if you have a credit history with the "big three" U.S. credit agencies. Hey, that might come in handy someday. Personally, I don't like the way all this is heading.
  • by phraktyl (92649) <[wyatt] [at] [draggoo.com]> on Monday August 26, 2002 @01:09PM (#4141958) Homepage Journal
    Just get a list of current government officials. You can't get possible criminal list with better odds then that.
    • That wouldn't work - everybody knows politicians almost never get sent to prision.

      A must beter choice that would directly impact in the really dangerous criminals would be a list of software developers.

      Yep, start with them Open Source Developers - everybody knows thei're all hackers that just haven't been caught in the act yet (dirty basterds). Since hacking has bigger sentences than murder or rape, hacking must be worse.
  • by billbaggins (156118) on Monday August 26, 2002 @01:10PM (#4141964)
    Officials at the New York Stock Exchange refused comment as to whether they would pressure the administrators of the Delaware database to include CEOs of large corporations in their "future criminal" database.

    As of press time, rumors that the MPAA and RIAA had sent representatives to the Wilmington police department with lists of local computer owners were unconfirmed.

  • by deft (253558)
    Lots of other professions speculate on compilied data. The /. posting here implies that they are guessing completely, but in fact they are really just taking note of people that are hanging in shady areas, loitering, with no real reason to be there.

    If the majority of those people end up commiting a crime, and they see a pattern, I see no problem with getting familiar with those faces in case anything ever does happen.

    Now, it would be funny to see some CEO's pop up on a fbi list.... this ceo has aurthur anderson consulting as his auditor, a seemingly inflated stock price... hes probably laundering, lets keep an eye on him!
    • by Anthony Boyd (242971) on Monday August 26, 2002 @01:37PM (#4142255) Homepage
      I see no problem with getting familiar with those faces in case anything ever does happen.

      Here's why I think this is a massive, huge problem: a cop "gets familiar" with my face because I went to a club in a bad part of town, and then is predisposed to assume I'm guilty of a crime on a later date. Let's say YOU are in the database. Let's say you've never been arrested or convicted of ANY crime. And let's say suddenly you're pulled in for a crime you didn't commit. You want to try to convince that cop you're innocent? How good are you going to feel while the cop sits there saying, "uh-huh, sure buddy. Look, it's in the computer and so we know your bad news."

    • by BeBoxer (14448) on Monday August 26, 2002 @03:01PM (#4143061)
      The only reason you think this is a good idea is because you think you won't get put on a list like this. Which you probably won't, because I'm guessing that you are affluent and white.

      they are really just taking note of people that are hanging in shady areas, loitering, with no real reason to be there.

      This is crap. The reason these people are hanging out in "shady" areas is because they live there!. There only crime so far is being born poor. And the unfortunate people are being set up for a fall before they've even done anything. Don't you think life sucks enough for the poor in this country without the police harrasing them for no reason?

      Now, it would be funny to see some CEO's

      You know what, this isn't really a joking matter. The fact is that the rich and affluent are not ever going to find them selves on this list, which is exactly why it is wrong. Despite studies showing the rich white kids do drugs at the same or higher rates than then minority counterparts, you can bet that hanging around a prep school won't get you on this list.

  • Let's see... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ObviousGuy (578567) <ObviousGuy@hotmail.com> on Monday August 26, 2002 @01:10PM (#4141973) Homepage Journal
    Most crime happens in poor, minority-dominated neighborhoods. It only makes sense to increase the police presence in those areas, through random patrols and targetted surveillance of possible hotspots and hotheads.

    The people who live in those neighborhoods have a right to live in safety. If this can effectively retard the development of criminals, isn't it worth it?

    This why we have affirmative action programs like "Midnight Basketball". When there is a possibility of someone going down the path of crime, it is much cheaper to stop them when they haven't done anything than it is to incarcerate them later.
    • Re:Let's see... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by danheskett (178529) <danheskett@CURIE ... minus physicist> on Monday August 26, 2002 @01:19PM (#4142086)
      This why we have affirmative action programs like "Midnight Basketball".
      Which, to the best of my knowledge has never been shown scientifically to prevent crime, criminal development, or truancy.

      But more importantly, think about what this. A database is a big collection of information - or maybe not so big (yet). Lets say they have a crime comitted and no suspects. They have a descripting "medium height, medium build, dark complextion". Okay, so they first go to the "pre-offender" database. Run a simple SQL statement against the database. "SELECT FROM PRE-FELONS WHERE..." etc etc.

      Exactly how is that not a search of the "pre-criminals" is beyond me. We are all guaranteed to be "secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures". What does that mean? Is your picture, your demographics and non-criminal history not your "effects", not your "person"?

      The right to live in safety is not absolute. What is absolute is the Bill of Rights. What is absolute is the fundamental protection that all Americans enjoy from persecution.

      We can do a lot of things to retard development of criminals, but most of them have higher costs than benefits.

      The easiest way to cure world hunger is to kill all the hungry people. The easiest way to cure crime is to kill all the criminals. Does that mean these are routes we should pursue?
      • Re:Let's see... (Score:2, Insightful)

        by ObviousGuy (578567)
        Enough hyperbole, it's not making anyone's point stronger.

        The fact of the matter is that the government (and frankly, anyone) can have a file on anyone, and against this there is no law, Constitutional or otherwise. The only restriction is that non-public information cannot be gained without a warrant issued by a judge. Any data collection that goes on in these neighborhoods is not done by entering these peoples' homes and searching for incriminating evidence. Rather, they are picking up on actions like teenagers hanging out late in alleyways or empty parking lots or who are seen interacting with known criminals. In other words, there are logical reasons to put them on the list.

        your picture, your demographics and non-criminal history not your "effects", not your "person"?

        No. If you are in a public place, then you have no privacy. Your picture may be taken (I like smiling in other tourists' vacation photos :-), your voice may be recorded, or any host of things that are easily accessible to those around you. You are secure in your home, papers, effects, and on your person. Once you step outside your house, your identity becomes public information.

        There is nothing here that is either odious or illegal. Think of it as a return to the beat cop era where the cop knew everyone in the neighborhood. This list isn't a deterrent in itself. It is simply a means to deduce where extra policing (in the full sense of the term) is needed.
    • Re:Let's see... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by geekoid (135745) <dadinportlandNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Monday August 26, 2002 @01:22PM (#4142120) Homepage Journal
      "The people who live in those neighborhoods have a right to live in safety. "
      yes, from both the people, and the government.
    • by Carnage4Life (106069) on Monday August 26, 2002 @01:28PM (#4142176) Homepage Journal
      Most crime happens in poor, minority-dominated neighborhoods. It only makes sense to increase the police presence in those areas, through random patrols and targetted surveillance of possible hotspots and hotheads.

      The worst part of America winning the Cold War is that whenever insane shit like profiling potential criminals happens we can no longer point to the practice of show me your papers in the Iron Curtain or Soviet states to show why it is against the very principles of democracy the US is based upon. Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?

      I used to live in one of those poor, crime ridden, minority dominated neighborhoods a few years ago and this adverserial us vs. them mentality between the police and members of the community was a major problem which is excarberated by public opinion that encourages treating poor, non-whites as a criminal underclass as default behavior of the police.
    • WhileI agree with the idea of prevention there is a massive difference between this program and Midnight Basketball. Midnight Basketball, Head Start and other similar programs give people in disadvantaged areas something legal and safe to do, and help them to be healthy and law abiding. These programs give them an incentive to do better and aid in acheiving it.

      Keeping a list of people "likely to commit crimes" does not help to prevent crimes it merely provides the police with a list of the "Usual Suspects" that they can attempt to match with any crime that they get. Anyone unfortunate enough to be on this list can look forward to being targeted for quesitoning or just systematic harrasment whenever a crime occurs probably making it more likely that they will commit crimes in the future. After all, if the police already think that you are a criminal even if you have never been convited of a crime, and treat you like one, where's the incentive to behave like a decent person?

      Take a look at This American Life's [thislife.org] episode entitled Perfect Evidence [thislife.org] Act one has a story about what happened when the Chicago pilice force turned to a profile, and "The Usual Suspects" in order to solve a crime and the price that the innocent paid.

    • Re:Let's see... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by isa-kuruption (317695)
      The real purpose of this kind of database is NOT to incriminate the not guilty, or to place random people into the database just for the hell of it. The point is to decrease the amount of time spent investigating crimes.

      I'm sure law enforcement has a better reason than "he's black!" to put these people into a database. They have most likely done research, gathered the names and faces of people who are running with gangs or others who have committed crimes. If you put *everyone* into the database, you lose the effectiveness of the database, and therefore it's worthless to the investigators. This is specifically designed to save money by cutting the time it takes to investigate crimes.

      This was done against the mafia years ago. Not only do you watch the criminals, but you have to watch who the criminals are close to. If you do not, you will effectively lose the battle.

  • by crow (16139) on Monday August 26, 2002 @01:10PM (#4141977) Homepage Journal
    This is probably a response to racial profiling. They've been told it's wrong to suspect people on the basis of race, so they're instead making a specific list of people they think or suspicious.

    With any database like this, major issues include how people are added and how the information is used.

    The article mentions that many of those added were stopped for loitering but not charged. Hence, they've broken some minor town ordinance, so while they don't have a regular police record, they had a reason to add them.

    The article says very little about how the information is being used.
  • Whew... (Score:3, Funny)

    by dwm (151474) on Monday August 26, 2002 @01:11PM (#4141982)
    Luckily, this was in Delaware.


    If this had been done in Philly, the whole city population would have had to be listed...

  • First Off (Score:5, Insightful)

    by danheskett (178529) <danheskett@CURIE ... minus physicist> on Monday August 26, 2002 @01:12PM (#4141998)
    First off, if you are going to keep tabs on potential criminals, you should do so on the basis of who comitts most crimes. Minorities, young people and poor people (often the same group) commit many of the crimes. Of course, the other major criminal group wealthy white males between the ages of 45 and 65. So if we are going to track these types of pre-criminals, we should do so fairly and consistently.

    But secondly and more importantly, this is not legal. This is a pure violation of several aspects of the bill of rights and the Constitution at large. This violates due process, this violates a persons right to be free from warantless searches (their identity and "person" will be searched everytime a crime is comitted without a clear suspect!), and this violates the much ignored 14th amendment which pleges "equal protection under the law".

    I imagine now that this is public knowledge on a wider scale that it will be struck down.
    • "this violates a persons right to be free from warantless searches"

      Now we need protection from warrentless SELECTs!

  • Taking pictures of people stopped for loitering. How low tech. These days, more and more DMV's are going with computerized drivers licenses including pictures. Now all they have to do is to use the dl database to compile information based on address (since location is obviously an important criteria for them) and then just pull the pictures. This could be done without anyone (i.e. the public) knowing. Heck, they could be doing it now.

    Now true, this would be easy to defeat by providing false info, or getting phoney licenses, both easy enough, but the man would still be able to get a large db up and going quickly and quietly.
  • Wow, what a short article. The text posted contains all the text of the article, except for the following lines:

    State and federal prosecutors say the tactic is legal. The photos are being taken by two Wilmington police squads created to arrest drug dealers.

    Many of the people whose photos have been taken were stopped briefly for loitering and let go.

    Then after the article, there is this notice:

    Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Does this mean that /. is in violation of AP's copyright?

  • From another article (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sc00ter (99550) on Monday August 26, 2002 @01:14PM (#4142030) Homepage
    Mayor James Baker called the criticism "asinine and intellectually bankrupt."

    "I don't care what anyone but a court of law thinks," he said. "Until a court says otherwise, if I say it's constitutional, it's constitutional."

    That's from this [chron.com] article.

    • He is right,

      However, if a court of law finds that a *reasonable* person would consider this a violation of someone's civil rights, then the official responsible can be sued for civil rights violations and cannot claim qualified immunity.

      "I hereby inform you that the actions you are taking are violating my civil rights. If you do not cease immediately, I will bring charges against you and you cannot claim qualified immunity, because as of know you are aware of the fact that you are voilating my rights."

  • Telling line (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TrumpetPower! (190615) <ben@trumpetpower.com> on Monday August 26, 2002 @01:14PM (#4142038) Homepage

    Many of the people whose photos have been taken were stopped briefly for loitering and let go.

    ``Loitering'' basically means the cop thought you looked out of place. If that's all it takes to be branded as a suspect--and, don't forget, a suspect is somebody who's guilty of some terrible crime but just hasn't been caught yet--then you better not get caught staring at a cop's jackboots.

    Cheers,

    b&

  • These police are amateurs. My money says 90% of those in the database are *actual* criminals, having managed to violate the DMCA one way or another.

    Cheers
    -b
  • by crystalplague (547876) on Monday August 26, 2002 @01:15PM (#4142049)
    IMO, if these people are being treated as criminals without actually committing a crime, they might as well commit crimes. I don't know about you, but if I were singled out as a potential criminal, my first order of business would be to remove all doubt by killing everybody dear to the person that lets this continue.
    • ...I don't know about you, but if I were singled out as a potential criminal, my first order of business would be to remove all doubt by killing everybody dear to the person that lets this continue

      Trying to get yourself into the database early, eh?
    • These people are NOT having their rights infringed on. I can make a database of any group of people I want...hell, I can go through the phonebook, find out where the person lives and go take a picture of them AND IT'S PERFECTLY LEGAL. All this organization is doing is keeping track of people that have been caught in 'questionable activities' and making a list.

      If these peoples' civil rights are infringed upon, please, get up in arms...I'll join right along with you. But if the police are just compiling a database, not performing searches, pulling them over unnecessarily (note: I am not referring to racial profiling) or taking them into jail without cause, I see no problem with this. It could, in fact, be a good way to keep an eye on potential trouble makers. If the cops checked what these individuals were doing on a weekly, monthly, yearly basis, it would keep some innocents from getting harmed.

      Remember, these are not random picks from the phone book...there's a reason why these people are in this database. Maybe they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, but doubtful...the majority were probably in the process of or about to commit crimes (drugs, vandalism, murder) when they were picked up.

      --trb

      ...and to anyone with that "Those who give up a little liberty to get safety..." line in your sig, remember NO LIBERTIES have been sacrificed here
      • by Elwood P Dowd (16933) <judgmentalist@gmail.com> on Monday August 26, 2002 @01:50PM (#4142397) Journal
        These people are NOT having their rights infringed on. I can make a database of any group of people I want...hell, I can go through the phonebook, find out where the person lives and go take a picture of them AND IT'S PERFECTLY LEGAL. All this organization is doing is keeping track of people that have been caught in 'questionable activities' and making a list.

        Right. But you're a citizen, and this is the government. There are a large number of things that you can do in your free time, but could not do while acting as a police officer.

        If these peoples' civil rights are infringed upon, please, get up in arms...I'll join right along with you. But if the police are just compiling a database, not performing searches, pulling them over unnecessarily (note: I am not referring to racial profiling) or taking them into jail without cause, I see no problem with this.

        Um, then what are they using this database for? The article very notably does not say. So long as the police officers use the database for nothing more than... an office betting pool, I can't imagine a legal use.

        It could, in fact, be a good way to keep an eye on potential trouble makers. If the cops checked what these individuals were doing on a weekly, monthly, yearly basis, it would keep some innocents from getting harmed.

        See... that's what I mean when I say I can't imagine a legal use. That would be *fucked* *up*.

        Remember, these are not random picks from the phone book...there's a reason why these people are in this database. Maybe they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, but doubtful...the majority were probably in the process of or about to commit crimes (drugs, vandalism, murder) when they were picked up.

        Right. So if police use this technique for *all* types of criminals, then there will be no "equal protection under the law" gripes.

        --trb ...and to anyone with that "Those who give up a little liberty to get safety..." line in your sig, remember NO LIBERTIES have been sacrificed here

        Good point. None of *my* liberties have been sacrificed... because I'm well off, white, and I live in the suburbs.
  • Situation in Denver. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Ironpoint (463916) on Monday August 26, 2002 @01:15PM (#4142050)


    The Denver police had spy files. When the public found out about it there was outcry. They label groups such as the Quakers "extremist organizations" in their files. The law abiding people in the files were finally allowed to view them after much wrangling, but the city kept an "archival copy" of the files for "archival" purposes.
  • Corporate CEOs? (Score:2, Redundant)

    by Dr. Zowie (109983)
    Delaware has a lot of corporations, because their corporate law is so lax. I wonder if they list officers of all their coporations? (a high-risk group if ever I saw one...)

  • by Wakko Warner (324) on Monday August 26, 2002 @01:17PM (#4142066) Homepage Journal
    The "future criminals" list, according to the article, is being collected by an anti-drug squad.

    Yet another example of how absolutely disgusting the "war on drugs" has become in this country. They're paying a group of policemen to spy on ordinary citizens because they might smoke pot some day, or try a handful of mushrooms.

    When can we get these retards back on the street fighting actual crimes? (Actually, do we even need the services of these particular retards anymore?)

    Does anyone actually support the war on drugs anymore? If so, what are they smoking?

    - A.P.
    - A.P.
    • ooh. Good poll idea. If only /. put real issues in the poll...

      The war on drugs:
      1)I support the current war on drugs.
      2)I support the legalization of a few drugs.
      3)I support the legalization of most drugs.
      4)I support the legalization of all drugs.
      5)I support cowboyneal's drugs.
    • by Jason Earl (1894) on Monday August 26, 2002 @02:40PM (#4142876) Homepage Journal

      This is nothing more than an extension of what is already being done in the law enforcement communities. In smaller communities, like the one where I used to live, police could simply memorize the names of the folks that they suspected of being "on a bad path."

      As an example, I had a buddy that had a string of DUIs and got his license suspended. He was later pulled over by a policeman because his license plate light wasn't bright enough (or some other excuse) and given yet another hefty fine for driving without a license. He couldn't believe that the police would pull him over for such a piddly deal, especially considering the amount of traffic that has faulty lights on their vehicles (stand on a streetcorner and count sometime, you will be amazed). It goes without saying that years of alcohol abuse had severely effected my friend's thought processes. The policeman hadn't pulled him over because of a minor infraction. The policeman had pulled him over because he recognized the automobile!

      In small towns police do this all of the time. They know who the criminals are, and they know that a quick sweep of everyone they are keeping tabs on (who isn't currently locked up) will generally net them their criminal. Of course, small town dwellers tend to understand that when the go out "in public" they are quite likely to be recognized by the people they encounter. We realize that none of us have a right to anonymity. What these big city policeman are doing is simply this same principle on a larger scale. They want to be able to "remember" the people (as a group) that they thought were suspicious. Now, whether this is right or not is hard to say. All I can say is that profiling potential criminals in this matter has been working quite well in small communities since the beginning of time. All things considered, I would strongly encourage folks that live in this part of the U.S. to take care to not dress like a stereotypical drug dealer.

    • by Quintin Stone (87952) on Monday August 26, 2002 @04:07PM (#4143528) Homepage
      I don't think you realize just how much money law enforcement agencies rake in because of the war on drugs. Due to blatantly unconstitutional seizure laws, police, FBI, DEA, etc. can seize property deemed "contributory" to alleged drug crimes, or bought with the proceeds of alleged drug trafficking. In other words, if they accuse you of hiding drugs in your car or house, they can take that property away from you, without a trial and often without a warrant. They are also under no obligation to return said property even if the original charges are dropped or if you are acquited. Any cash found during a drug search will also be seized, as will large enough amounts of money found during other procedures (i.e. if they find a suitcase full of money in your car during a traffic stop, or if you're found boarding a plane with lots of cash, they might very well take it from you).

      Legal battles to get property returned are difficult, costly, with no guarantees of winning. And if you do win, the cost of getting the property back may be more than it was worth in the first place.

      The cash and proceeds from auctioning off all that seized property go directly towards funding law enforcement agencies at the federal, state, county, and municipal levels. In fact, the money from the seizures is often figured directly into the budgets of departments, meaning that they will budgeted less taxpayer money because they are expected to pull in as much cash from seizures as they did last year. If they don't, their department will face a budget crunch, so it is directly beneficial to police to seize as much property as they can, in order to pay for new uniforms, sidearms, squad cars, radios, etc. Not to mention all the perks enjoyed by the big bosses, including sports cars, houses, boats, and more.

      All thanks to the wonderful "war on drugs". It will never end because the people in power personally gain so much from it.
  • 1984. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Talinom (243100) on Monday August 26, 2002 @01:18PM (#4142071) Homepage Journal
    George Orwell's "Thought Police" seem to be a step closer. Are we going to be arresting potential hackers because someone is computer literate? How about arresting potential rapists because the person is about to hit their sexual prime?

    What are the requirments for entry into this exclusive database? Income level? High incidents of arrest of your immediate family? High intelligence? Low intelligence? Neighborhood you grew up in?

    Take this a step further: Just enter EVERYONE into the thing and link it with our upcoming national ID system. Now everyone is a suspicious person until they prove themselves innocent.

    This is wrong on SO many levels. IMHO of course.
  • ...and my family, friends, colleagues, and shrinks still can't understand why I'm paranoid. I should have gone into the blinder industry -- I coulda made a fortune from a government contract, handing them out to the public.

    --brian

  • Great idea! (Score:2, Funny)

    by mfago (514801)
    They should start with the Fortune 500, and then move on to congress!
  • ... here [fortune.com]

    I would best most of those CEO's don't live in high crime areas

    [This was a joke to the moderator challenged]


  • This is not some Orwellian Big-Brother program. This is an effort by a local police agency to apply pressure to street-level drug dealers to push them out of the area. It's a desperate move that will unlikely halt drug use or sales, but may shuffle it off the regular corners for a short time. The article says police have been temporarily detaining loiterers and photographing them, then releasing them and posting their pictures on the interweb. This reminds me of how people in one community who were bothered by men cruising a particular public restroom in a park for anonymous sex started shooting video of the outside of the restroom and showed the video on public access TV. The slight difference here it that the TV show never said, "These guys are having gay sex or will have gay sex." It left it up to the viewers to infer. In the wilmington police operation, they're saying these people are likely to commit a crime, which is really hard to back up.


    Perhaps drawing attention to these loiterers will get their parents involved and maybe they won't prove the cops right.

    seth
  • by Restil (31903) on Monday August 26, 2002 @01:20PM (#4142104) Homepage
    They're just crusing high crime areas (where the probabability is greater that a resident will be involved in criminal activity), then they find someone who's doing anything that's even remotely in violation of the law (loitering for instance), then adding them to the probability list.

    And of course, they cite numbers of "successful guesses" but fail to mention how many misses. Its not necessarily meaningful. Very VERY few people are completely 100% in compliance with the law. I wouldn't go so far to say that someone who occasionally speeds is to be considered a criminal, but if you look at the teeth many laws have, especially copyright law, many of us are in violation to the degree that we could spend many thousands of years in prison and be fined billions of dollars, should they bring those cases to court and press the maximums.

    6.6 Million americans (about 3%) are currently under supervision of a correctional institution, either in prison, or on parole or probation. And that's RIGHT NOW. That's a significant percentage of the population. To drive around someplace where that percentage is signficantly higher, it wouldn't be terribly unlikely to get a 10% matchup with pure guessing by pointing out random people who will one day end up in trouble with the law. To tout statistical probabilities as indications that this system is any more useful than pursusing criminals after the crime has been commmited is nothing more than a lazy effort to create the impression that something is being done about the "problem".

    What is the point of this anyway? So someone's name is on a "future criminals" list. Does that make any difference when a trial comes up? I suppose if there's a murder, and one of the suspects happens to be on the list, that might be something, but if the only critiera for being added to the list was the fact that you once jaywalked 5 years ago, there would be little grounds to take it seriously, and defense lawyers would have a field day if someone was held longer than necessary based only on such inconsequencial evidence.

    -Restil
  • by RailGunner (554645) on Monday August 26, 2002 @01:24PM (#4142137) Journal
    This couldn't possibly be Constitutional, could it? It seems to me that by invading the privacy of those who "may" break the law, they are violating Equal Protection under the Law. It's also unethical. Just because a person comes from a high risk crime group, doesn't mean that the person in question is going to commit a crime. What, are they going to put every single male inner city kid in this database, along with probably 80% of the kids in the suburbs?

    That, and isn't this collection of data an unlawful search? Especially when the person in question has no criminal record?

    Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for keeping tabs on people who have previously broken the law, as unfortunately many felons are repeat offenders. However, there's no way you can convince me that keeping a database of people who "may be inclined" to commit a crime is a fair idea.

    Besides, let's be honest, we've all though about committing a crime. Who hasn't wanted to beat the snot out of that jerk that just cut you off in traffic?

    Using the logic of this, then the next step is that everyone with a driver's license should be tagged in a database as a possible assault perpetrator.

    Illustrating absurdity by being absurd:

    Most serial killers are middle class white men in their 20's who have trouble with relationships with women. DEAR GOD! SLASHDOT IS FULL OF POSSIBLE SERIAL KILLERS!

  • by nick_davison (217681) on Monday August 26, 2002 @01:26PM (#4142155)
    "most of the 200 people included in the file have been from ... high-crime neighborhoods."

    What, you mean there's a correllation between high-crime neighbourhoods and a likelihood of more crime being committed there. This is an outrage. I demand that zero-crime neighbourhoods get equal representation as places likely to have crime in the future.

    Yes, it is very unfortunate that minorities in this, and most, countries tend to be in poorer neighbourhoods and that those neighbourhoods are consequently more likely to suffer from crime. However, as far as I'm aware, the list contains those individuals for reasons other than race. Playing the race card simply serves to add an association that wasn't being made before. Haven't we learned yet that the over-the-top-PC brigade do more harm than good?

  • by Phoenix (2762) on Monday August 26, 2002 @01:28PM (#4142172)
    After the Columbine Shooting the FBI posted a survey that would help profile a potential school shooter. We all remember that list, it was on /. after all. The list with things like:

    Locking your door from the rest of the family.
    Not labeling Floppy disks,
    Being the Social Outcast of the school.

    Hell I'd warrant that most of us would have been profiled as a potential threat based of our answers to that list. Odds are that at least some of us would fit that list as well.

    What should really chap our collective asses is the blurb I heard on the Jim Gearhart show on 101.5 in New Jersey. That this law is constitutional because they say it is. If this is a true statement and not FUD from what boils down to a Rush Limbaugh-ish show, then we're really going to hell in a handbasket. If they can ignore the constitution based on whim then we're (not to put a fine point on it) fucked.

    What is going to happen when this person goes for a job interview and he answers that he has no criminal record and then the employer and sees a "Future Criminal" tag? IF he going to be forced to work fast food and live off of welfare even though his record is clean?

    Honestly, It's become a matter of 'when' and not 'if' for the revolution hasn't it?

    Phoenix

  • Now that the officals in Wilmington are using the steerotypes to decide who is going to become a criminal, they need to expand the number of steerotypes beyond "Criminal Negros". Let's see There is a steerotype of "Pigs" who ready to assault defendants, so they need to add the Wilmington Police Force to thier database. There is a steerotype of "Crooked Politicans", so everyone who ever ran for office in Wilmington needs to be added.
  • Remember, the fact that you were prevented from breaking the law doesn't alter the fact that you were going to break it....
  • by Dr.Dubious DDQ (11968) on Monday August 26, 2002 @01:47PM (#4142370) Homepage

    Consider This bill... [loc.gov]

    If passed, this will mandate a year of military training for nearly all "selective service" age males (and any females for volunteer - is it just me or is this an amusing chauvenistic anachronism for a modern law?...).

    It's far from being an outright "draft", but it holds a disturbing (and on-topic) implication.

    I seem to recall that when someone begins US military service, that they are subjected to a variety of examinations, including, I assume, psychiatric ones. Of course, the military keeps records of the results.

    Therefore...this bill is basically a convenient way to ensure that the US Federal Government would from that day forth be able to "profile" effectively every male US citizen as they hit voting age. It'd be a trivial matter, in a technical sense, to automate the "picking out" of any results that are deemed "worrisome" and the reports shared with law enforcement agencies everywhere...

    I'm not certain that's the main PURPOSE of the bill, but I don't doubt that aspect of it would appeal to current AND FUTURE executive administrations in the US....

  • by billstewart (78916) on Monday August 26, 2002 @02:06PM (#4142563) Journal
    So there's a published list, even if it's only published to cops, saying "This person is likely to commit a crime". Leave aside the obvious civil liberties issues for the moment - this seems like simple libel to me. At least for the Usual Suspects who haven't yet been arrested for things, this doesn't sound like investigation of a crime or other legitimate police function that's protected by laws protecting government officials doing their official jobs. Of course, most of the people on the list probably don't have the resources to fight that kind of libel suit, but it'd be fun to get the ACLU or some other pro bono support for it.
  • by ksheff (2406) on Monday August 26, 2002 @02:10PM (#4142600) Homepage

    here [delawareonline.com] is a better article about the practice as well as some legal explanations for and against it. It also has quotes from people in the affected neighborhoods.

  • "Minority" report (Score:3, Insightful)

    by subspacemsg (593356) on Monday August 26, 2002 @02:39PM (#4142870)

    Looks like the cops misunderstood the movie "Minority" report.

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