Archive for July, 2022

Jul 01 2022

Model for Predictive Policing

Published by under Technology

The premise of the show Person of Interest is that the government has a powerful computer algorithm connected to all data from the surveillance state – social media, phone calls, e-mail, etc., and it uses this information to predict crimes. This, of course, is a massive invasion of privacy, so to get around that the algorithm gives limited information, just the identity of a “person of interest” with no information about the crime or their role in the crime (even if they are victim or perpetrator). Traditional investigation then has to backfill the rest.

Is this sort of AI-based surveillance in our future? The technology is being developed for national security. As long as the targets are outside the US, then there are no legal issues with privacy. Government use of this technology to monitor US citizens is, of course, already a controversy, but that’s not what I am writing about today. AI is also used in what is called predictive policing – predicting “hotspots” of crime and then deploying police resources to those hotspots. This superficially makes sense, but (as a new study points out) is more complex than it may appear.

The problem stems from a common mistake, looking at one component of a complex system instead of the entire system. In this case the simplistic predictive policing model used crime data to predict future crime hotspots, but it failed to consider the broader social environment and also the impact of any policing response. If there is one thing we learned from social science over the last century is that we may produce unintended consequences, even the opposite effect of what we desire, if we react simplistically to situations and don’t consider human psychology.

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