Written December, 2013
The National Institute of Justice defines predictive policing as “taking data from disparate sources, analyzing them and then using the results to anticipate, prevent and respond more effectively to future crime.” Some of these disparate sources include crime maps, traffic camera data, other surveillance footage, and social media network analysis. The Santa Cruz Police Department constructed an algorithm using anthropological and criminological behavior research and complex mathematics to estimate crime and predict future crime locations.
According to an article in the February 2014 issue of Police Chief Magazine “Predictive policing allows command staff and police managers to leverage advanced analytics in support of meaningful, information-based tactics, strategy, and policy decisions in the applied public safety environment. As the law enforcement community increasingly is asked to do more with less, predictive policing represents an opportunity to prevent crime and respond more effectively, while optimizing increasingly scarce or limited resources, including personnel.” Predictive policing appears to be the way forward for law enforcement, but it poses a number of legal, ethical, and social issues.
At what point does the possibility of a crime require intervention? Should someone be punished for a crime they are likely to commit, based on these sources? Are we required to inform potential victims? How far in advace can we forecast crimes? Can we perform predictive policing without racial profiling? Is using big data to predict crime really any different than asking officers to monitor areas where crimes occur at higher rates? If all data points to a person about to commit a crime, at what point are they guilty?
What is predictive policing?
Predictive Policing: The Future of Law Enforcement? (National institute of Justice)
Don’t Even Think About It (The Economist)
Predictive policing in action
Chicago Police ‘Custom Notifications’: Is it Profiling? (Chicago Sun-Times)
Legal and ethical issues