The London Metropolitan Police Service has become the latest in a string of law enforcement agencies to adopt statistical software that aims to prevent crime by predicting where it will happen next. Called PredPol, the computer program has been used for years in the United States, where it has apparently helped reduce the rate of assault, burglaries and robberies in major metro areas.
Developed at UCLA in California by mathmetician George Mohler and anthropologist Jeff Brantingham, PredPol runs historical crime data through an algorithm that then predicts which locations in a city are at a greater risk for repeat offenses.
PredPol is similar to statistical programs long used by major private sector companies. The online retailer Amazon, for example, collects data on customers' buying habits to predict what they may want to purchase in the future. It then makes recommendations based on that data.But that might violate the criminals rights;
...critics warn that predictive policing could simply entrench racial profiling. Legal expert David Harris says that if a police officer already operates with a racial bias, predictive information that marks a particular location as higher risk could encourage the officer to detain someone with little real cause for suspicion.
"What's happening in the police officer's mind is that the racial characteristics or ethnic characteristics are proxies or substitutes for actual suspicious behavior," Harris, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh, told DW.
"When you add to that the supposedly iron-clad data based predictions that crimes are going to be going on in this place, the potential for stops, frisks, detentions based on very little real evidence just grows," he said.We didn't need an algorithm to predict that.