Problems With Using Big Data For Policing

This is the age of Big Data and police across the world are starting to incorporate Big Data methods that help to predict crime and to analyse criminal methods. This process is beginning to add new technologies like AI and Machine Learning (ML) into some police forces.

Big Data is an evolving term that describes a large volume of structured, semi-structured and unstructured data that has the potential to be mined for information which is being used in machine learning projects as well as other advanced analytics applications.

The UK is using the technology to help create “predictive crime mapping.” What this allows is for the police department to be able to predict where crime will happen before it actually occurs.

Defenders of the technology say it can provide new insights into gun and knife crime, sex trafficking and other potentially life-threatening offences at a time when police budgets are under pressure.

Predictive policing technology uses algorithms to pore over massive amounts of data to predict when and where future crimes will occur. It relies on algorithms to interpret police records, analysing arrest or parole data to send officers to target chronic offenders, or identifying places where crime may occur.

These algorithms can estimate and predict the times and locations of crimes, the potential perpetrators, and even their upcoming victims based on a variety of risk factors.

For example, if the system recognises a pattern of physical altercations outside a bar every Saturday at 2am, it could suggest increasing police presence there at that time to prevent the fights from occurring. Some of these methods have been used by police across the US for almost a decade.

California’s Santa Cruz has become the first US city to ban predictive policing. Critics says it reinforces racist patterns of policing, low-income, ethnic minority neighborhoods have historically been over policed so the data shows them as crime hotspots, leading to the deployment of more police to those areas, according to international news agencies.

Predictive policing is nothing new, but currently, law enforcement agencies and the private companies who develop predictive algorithms use cutting-edge, computer driven models that can tap into massive stores of data and information.

Predictive policing can be based on patterns regarding places, persons, or groups.The PredPol software package which has been adopted by police departments across the US reportedly looks at a narrow set of related statistics, giving additional weight to more recent events, to predict where and when crimes will occur during a given officer’s shift within a 150m by 150m square.

The technology reportedly lowered crime rate, however, within a few years, the PredPol system has been abandoned by numerous departments because it didn’t help solve crime.  The NYPD, America’s largest police force, was another early adopter of predictive policing algorithms. Developing its own algorithm suite in-house, the NYPD used algorithms to forecast shootings, burglaries, robberies, etc., as of 2017.

Predictive policing poses many of the same civil and constitutional risks seen in other  schemes like automated facial recognition.

As these algorithms are trained using data produced by the police, implicit biases held by those departments can work their way into the output recommendations. The good news is that big data is proving to be a valuable tool in the arsenal of law enforcement officials in every jurisdiction and it will help reduce the crime rates which are currently rising.

Big data has begun to transform government in fields as diverse as public health, transportation management, and scientific research and it will change the way police works.

Many major countries like (USA, UK, China) of police departments are using predictive analytics with a large set of past data to predict, detect and prevent criminal activities. In China, the authorities are using face recognition techniques to record the faces, and several other social media websites and data are being collected. So that predictive intelligence can notify the police of a threat.

Brennan Center:       BBC:        Washington Law Review:     I-HLS:       SmartData Collective:       Medium:  

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