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Originally published September 25 2015

Pre-crime is here: Police program to predict which individuals might commit crimes, right out of Minority Report

by J. D. Heyes

(NaturalNews) In 2002, actors Tom Cruise and Colin Farrell starred in a movie called Minority Report. In the film, a special police unit that was acting on the seemingly infallible premonitions of three humanoids with precognitive abilities was able to arrest people before they committed their anticipated crimes.

It was great fiction, but today what was once a Hollywood creation has come true: police are now utilizing anticipatory techniques to predict which individuals are likely to commit crimes and then focus their efforts on preventing them.

The New York Times reports that police all over the country are using complex computer algorithms instead of people with pre-cognitive abilities in an effort to "pinpoint the people most likely to be involved in future violent crimes – either as predator or prey." The goal of such programs is to enable police to do all they can to prevent said crimes from taking place.

The strategy, which is known as "predictive policing" and is sure to be labeled discriminatory by someone or some group at some point in time, pools factions of traditional policing such as paying more attention to crime "hot spots" and closer monitoring of ex-convicts who have recently been paroled.

However, the strategy also incorporates other data such as information about friendships and associations, social media activity and drug use in order to identify "hot people' and help police make what is essentially a criminal forecast. So much for innocent until proven guilty.

The New York Times reported on one program that is currently underway in Kansas City, Missouri:

The program here has been named the Kansas City No Violence Alliance, or KC NoVA. And the message on [a recent June night to one local suspect] and the others was simple: The next time they, or anyone in their crews, commit a violent act, the police will come after everyone in the group for whatever offense they can make stick, no matter how petty.

Not a favorite program of civil liberties groups

That was the case for 28-year-old Mario Glenn, who had a criminal history including drug trafficking and assault. After he attended one program meeting in 2014, he was caught during a police sting to interdict a group that had been implicated in a number of homicides. Glenn had robbed a confidential informant while trying to buy a gun from him, according to police. He has since been convicted and faces 30 years in prison, which is the maximum penalty.

"We have a moral reason to do a better job at addressing violence in this community," Jean Peters Baker, the prosecutor for Jackson County told the Times. "I don't know that this will work, but we need to try."

The use of computer models by law enforcement agencies is quickly becoming part of a wider trend by governments and private tech corporations such as Facebook and Google in turning to predictive analytics models and data mining to establish behaviors. The Information Age has facilitated the trend.


Funded most often by taxpayers, the strategy is increasingly being used by scores of police agencies, including very large departments such as Los Angeles, Miami and Nashville as well as by district attorneys' offices in Philadelphia and Manhattan.

As you might imagine, civil liberties groups are not taking a positive view of the strategy, with many questioning its constitutionality and efficacy while claiming that it might actually make the rapport between police and the civil society, which is already frayed after several high-profile incidents and shootings, even worse.

In an interview with the Times, Ezekiel Edwards, the director of the Criminal Law Reform Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, said that predictive police work could legitimize racial profiling of susceptible minorities who happen to live in poor, high-crime neighborhoods while causing officers to selectively enforce laws.

"Our concern is guilt by association," said Edwards. "Because you live in a certain neighborhood or hang out with certain people, we are now going to be suspicious of you and treat you differently, not because you have committed a crime or because we have information that allows us to arrest you, but because our predictive tool shows us you might commit a crime at some point in the future."

Welcome to the future, where you might find that you are guilty even before you've done anything wrong.

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