Computers predict what crime will be committed where, by who and when
Tuesday, Aug 24th, 2010
Law enforcement agencies in Washington D.C. have begun to use technology that they say can predict when crimes will be committed and who will commit them, before they actually happen.
The Minority Report like pre-crime software has been developed by Richard Berk, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
Previous incarnations of the software, already being used in Baltimore and Philadelphia were limited to predictions of murders by and among parolees and offenders on probation.
According to a report by ABC News, however, the latest version, to be implemented in Washington D.C., can predict other future crimes as well.
“When a person goes on probation or parole they are supervised by an officer. The question that officer has to answer is ‘what level of supervision do you provide?’” Berk told ABC News, intimating that the program could have a bearing on the length of sentences and/or bail amounts.
The technology sifts through a database of thousands of crimes and uses algorithms and different variables, such as geographical location, criminal records and ages of previous offenders, to come up with predictions of where, when, and how a crime could possibly be committed and by who.
The program operates without any direct evidence that a crime will be committed, it simply takes datasets and computes possibilities.
“People assume that if someone murdered then they will murder in the future,” Berk also states, “But what really matters is what that person did as a young individual. If they committed armed robbery at age 14 that’s a good predictor. If they committed the same crime at age 30, that doesn’t predict very much.”