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Crime Technology

The Increasing Role of Predictive Analysis In Police Work 180

elucido writes "A growing number of law enforcement agencies, in the US and elsewhere, have been adopting software tools with predictive analytics, based on algorithms that aim to predict crimes before they happen. From the article: 'Without some of the sci-fi gimmickry, police departments from Santa Cruz, California, to Memphis, Tennessee, and law enforcement agencies from Poland to Britain have adopted these new techniques. The premise is simple: criminals follow patterns, and with software — the same kind that retailers like Wal-Mart and Amazon use to determine consumer purchasing trends — police can determine where the next crime will occur and sometimes prevent it.'"
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The Increasing Role of Predictive Analysis In Police Work

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  • by Taco Cowboy ( 5327 ) on Monday July 30, 2012 @02:25AM (#40814967) Journal

    It all boils down to statistical analysis

    Let's say you own a grocery store, and there's one particular item that shoplifters like to steal

    You, as the owner, can do one of three things -

    A. Stop carrying that item in your store

    B. Keep that thing close to the counter to cut down on shoplifting

    C. Fix a hidden vid cam near where you put the thing and start recording

  • by vgerclover ( 1186893 ) on Monday July 30, 2012 @02:36AM (#40815027)
    Hello precrime [] and thoughtcrime []....
  • by perpenso ( 1613749 ) on Monday July 30, 2012 @02:38AM (#40815031)

    I imagine patrol cops go where they expect some action may occur (or to stops that offer cheap food/drink for the uniformed). This sounds like a higher tech version of that, basically taking the instincts out of the equation and substituting it with statistics. Perhaps adds more coordination at the central office level too although I'm sure that also already occurs.

    Technically a good cop with good instincts is applying statistics. The human brain is built to recognize patterns and to use those patterns to make predictions. Some of this is done at a subconscious level. So its not that we are necessarily introducing statistics, its seems more that we are using a much larger data set to mine patterns from. Still, as you say, a high tech version of what we already do.

  • by Raptoer ( 984438 ) on Monday July 30, 2012 @03:45AM (#40815299)

    Ok, so first, if the crime doesn't happen, how do you know you prevented it? Maybe it just didn't happen.


    You don't look at individual crimes, you take a selection of areas with similar crime statistics, implement the prediction system in some of them, then see how the crime rates change.

    Second, doesn't this seem like there will now be a market for anti-prediction? That is, find out where the cops think the crime will occur, and do the crime somewhere else. Because the cops will be somewhere else, your chances of getting caught are less

    Perhaps there will be a market for anti-prediction, but the types of crimes that this aims to prevent (or even just be more response to calls about) aren't usually done by sophisticated criminals. Any anti-prediction system would first have to be able to aggregate crime statistics then apply the prediction algorithm, then find areas outside the predicted zones. If you have all that already, you might as well just sell the prediction algorithm to the police rather than make an unethical program that has a very small (and secretive) user base that wouldn't pay much for your system in the first place.

  • by FriendlyLurker ( 50431 ) on Monday July 30, 2012 @04:12AM (#40815419)

    > police can determine where the next crime will occur and sometimes prevent it

    No need to predict, why the heck have they not stormed the banks, arrested any of the significant financial fraudsters, yet? Oh... yeah, there is only Libery and Justice for some []. Silly me.

    America’s two-tiered justice system – specifically, the way political and financial elites are now vested with virtually absolute immunity from the rule of law even when they are caught committing egregious crimes, while ordinary Americans are subjected to the world’s largest and one of its harshest and most merciless penal states even for trivial offenses. As a result, law has been completely perverted from what it was intended to be – the guarantor of an equal playing field which would legitimize outcome inequalities – into its precise antithesis: a weapon used by the most powerful to protect their ill-gotten gains, strengthen their unearned prerogatives, and ensure ever-expanding opportunity inequality.

  • by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Monday July 30, 2012 @04:37AM (#40815547) Journal
    By definition all lawful arrests are "justified", they are nothing more than the physical precursor to a formal accusation (charges), in many cases they are also used simply to "keep the peace" by physically separating drunks from each other long enough for them to "sleep it off" . Are people charged and jailed for dubious reasons? - Of course, the US alone has half a million "drug criminals" locked up. Do innocent people get framed or otherwise wrongly convicted? - You bet, I believe Texas executed an innocent man not long ago. Is there a better alternative to the western system of justice? - There's always room for improvement* but I've yet to hear anyone describe a fundamentally new system.

    *suggested improvements to the US system: 1. Ban capital punishment. Think of it as insurance. I personally have no moral objection to the concept of the death penalty, some people certainly DO deserve to die. I do however have a moral objection to killing innocent people who do not deserve the death penalty. The track record of the death penalty, whenever and wherever it has been implemented, is such that a great number of people who did NOT deserve to die have been put to death by the state.

    2. Stop circumventing judges with pre-trial plea deals, sure remorse should count in the prisoner's favor, but it should be unconditional remorse, not the bargaining-chip kind of remorse used to negotiate "justice" between two lawyers.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 30, 2012 @04:47AM (#40815595)

    Bernie Madoff made the mistake of stealing from rich people.

  • I actually worked on predicting when aircraft will malfunction (and crash) and we had a huge database with
    everything that happened to the planes to work for, and we didn't get much results.
    So upper management brought in a highly paid consultant, which crunched our data for 6 months.
    He finally gathered everyone in a conference room to announce his amazing results,
    he found an outstanding correlation: planes that fly a lot are more likely to malfunction or crash then planes that don't fly.

  • Oh yes, Bernie Madoff, who stole 65 billion dollars, who is currently in a medium-security prison where he is, quoted "treated like a Mafia don" by the other inmates.

    While young guys in risk of a drug charge are told to be scared of 'pound-em-in-the-ass' prison to keep 'em on the straight and narrow.

    Yes, it is hard to see that a culture that promotes those values has a two-tier justice system.

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