London: Is it possible for the police to
predict who will commit crimes beforehand? Yes, say scientists
who have developed a new software similar to that of Hollywood
sci-fi thriller `Minority Report`.
The software, which will soon be used by law-enforcement
agencies in America, may even be able to tell where, when and
how the crime will be committed, just as it happened in the
In the movie, Tom Cruise heads a `Precrime` unit which
uses genetically altered humans known as `Pre Cogs` to look
into the future to prevent crimes before they happen.
It is believed that the software may spark an outcry from
civil rights groups for its unmistakable resemblance to the
Steven Spielberg-directed movie, the Daily Mail reported.
Developed by Richard Berk, a professor of Criminology and
Statistics in University of Pennsylvania, the software
collates a range of variables then uses an algorithm to work
out who is at the highest chance of offending.
The software is already used in Baltimore and
Philadelphia to predict which individuals on probation or
parole are most likely to murder and to be murdered.
But now it is being taken one step further in Washington
DC to look into the future.
Its developers believe once the trials proved success,
the software could be used nationwide to help set bail amounts
and suggest sentencing recommendations too.
"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?" said
"It used to be that parole officers used the person`s
criminal record, and their good judgement, to determine that
level. This research replaces those seat-of-the-pants
The technology sifts through around two dozen variables,
from criminal records to geographic location.
The type of crime, and more importantly, the age at which
that crime was committed, were two of the most predictive
From a dataset of 60,000 crimes including murder, the
research team found a subset of people more likely to commit
crime when on parole or bailed.
Compared to the standard murder rate in the US of 1
murderer in 100, they claim to be able to identify eight in
Those who are identified by the software could be subject
to tougher bail conditions, or closer supervision -- something
attacked by academics as tantamount to harassment.
Their argument is compounded by the fact that currently
the software does not provide any direct evidence that a crime
will take place.