New Software Could Predict Future Crime

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Authorities may be able to predict crimes before they happen with the assistance of new software that, developers say, could help reduce the occurrence of murder and other crimes, ABCNews.com reported.

The crime prediction software currently is in limited use in Philadelphia and Baltimore and is being tested in D.C.. If it proves to be successful, it could be rolled out nationwide in the near future.

Created by University of Penn Professor Richard Berk, the software collects a range of variables then uses an algorithm to see who has the highest chance of committing crimes. Authorities may also be able to predict how, when and where the crime will be committed. The technology works by examining a large database of crimes and other factors including age, geographic location, prior offenses and criminal records.

If the software proves to be efficient, it could affect sentencing recommendations and bail amounts.

“When a person goes on probation or parole they are supervised by an officer. The question that officer has to answer is ‘what level of supervision do you provide?’” Berk told the AP.

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With a dataset comprised of 60,000 crimes including murder, the software’s research team found a subset of people more prone to commit crime when on parole or bailed. Using an algorithm they developed, they pinpointed a subset of people much more likely to commit homicide when paroled or probated. Out of an estimated set of one murderer for every 100,000 people, the Penn researchers narrowed the target group down to eight future murderers out of 100.

Berk's software examines roughly two dozen variables, from criminal record to geographic location. The two of the most predictive variables were type of crime, and more importantly, the age at which that crime was committed.

With this information, authorities can implement tougher bail conditions or closer supervision, but many protestors believe this software could lead to harassment. They believe the software does not provide direct evidence that the crime will happen.

Berk’s students compare the technology to the “Precrime” software used in the 2002 Tom Cruise film “Minority Report.” In the film, authorities were notified right before a crime was about to occur.

“Predicting future crimes does sound, well, futuristic,” Berk told the AP. “[Nevertheless] we aren’t able to do that.”

According to the UK Guardian, this is not the only software used to predict crime.

Colleagues at the University College London and Oxford University have developed brain scanners to read people’s intentions before they act on them. Using high-resolution brain scans, they are able to translate brain activity into meaningful thoughts, revealing what a person plans to do in the future.