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What practical effects would crime predicting software inspire?

Written by Moses & Rooth on January 27, 2013

Every major television network broadcasts programs centered on detectives, forensic experts and other professionals whose job responsibilities include solving crime and predicting criminal behavior. Certainly, law enforcement and other crime experts must engage in behavior analysis in order to do their jobs. But these programs tend to overly romanticize a very complex subject, as this sort of analysis can trample the rights of Americans if taken too far or approached in inappropriate ways.

New software currently being used in some eastern jurisdictions illustrates the complexity of criminal behavior prediction analysis especially well. This software aims to predict the potentially criminal actions of former offenders of violent crimes before they occur. While there is obvious benefit to law enforcement in engaging in such analysis, acting on this analysis could potentially compromise an individual’s right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Currently, the software is being used to track and predict behavior of individuals on parole. The idea is that by using predictive software, the level of attention and effort exerted by parole officers with regard to any given parolee can be tailored accordingly. The prediction analysis is reached by using an algorithm constructed from roughly two dozen distinct variables.

By determining an individuals’ geographic location, age at which the individual committed former offenses, criminal record and other factors, the software can allegedly predict whether or not the offender is likely to reoffend. Again, this predictive technology may be somewhat helpful to law enforcement, but it may also potentially pigeonhole parolees and compromise their rights in various ways.

Source: The Mary Sue, “Minority Report precog-like software being tested in Baltimore and Philadelphia to predict crimes,” Jill Pantozzi, Jan. 12, 2013

Posted Under: Criminal Justice

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