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“Minority Report” Pre-Crime May Become a Reality

21 Aug 2010

The Los Angeles Police Department may soon be leaving crime solving to the nerds. Except the crime won’t have happened yet: Working with researchers at UCLA, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck predicts that “predictive policing” will be “the thing that will take us to the next level,” the LA Times reports.

Employing various simulation technologies and mathematical formulas, the LAPD hopes to forecast where and when a crime will happen, before it happens! We are reminded, of course, of the “precogs” from Minority Report, who could psychically view murders happening in the future. Such a development in criminal apprehension incites an intriguing debate about the predictability of human nature.

How would the technology work? There would be automatic crime forecasts streamed to the 21 area commanders throughout the city. Also, patrol officers would have access to mapping software that would continuously update with up-to-the-minute probabilities and indicate the locations of nearby ex-convicts. What a brave new world!

But authorities are convinced that calculating the mathematical likelihoods of crime is an important key aspect, the basic idea being that someone is bound to strike when a target is vulnerable. It’s no coincidence that one UCLA anthropologist tapped to research predictive policing also studies hunter-gatherers in Tibet. In an interview with the LA Times, Jeff Bratingham noted:

“Humans are not nearly as random as we think. In a sense, crime is just a physical process, and if you can explain how offenders move and how they mix with their victims, you can understand an incredible amount.”

The Justice Department is granting $3 million to one city to hold an experiment over several years, and LA is reportedly a frontrunner. Science-fiction may slowly become non-fiction!

[via LAT]

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