'Precrime' Database For London Homicide Prevention Unit

Criminal profilers working for the London Metropolitan Police's Homicide Prevention Unit are putting together a list of 100 future murderers.

I believe I am reading these reports correctly; they are not simply keeping a list of, let's say, murderers who have done their time in prison and are now at large. This pilot project seeks to identify people who will in the future commit serious crimes.


(Minority Report precrime unit computer room)

No, they are not using precogs (precognitives - people who can see into the future) like the ones used in Philip K. Dick's Minority Report with their own special precrime analytical wing:

Doors opened and closed, and they were in the analytical wing. Ahead of them rose impressive banks of equipment - the data-receptors, and the computing mechanisms that studied and restructured the incoming material. And beyond the machinery sat the three precogs, almost lost to view in the maze of wiring...

In the gloomy half-darkness the three idiots sat babbling.
(Read more about the precogs in Minority Report's precrime analytical wing)

Instead they are using databases. It appears that the Unit is creating psychological profiles of likely offenders to predict patterns of behavior. Statements from former partners, information from mental health workers and details of past complaints are being combined to identify the 100 men most likely to commit murder in the near future.

Once an individual has been identified, police would decide whether to begin arrest proceedings, or alert social services who could steer targeted individuals into "management programs."

Many people are concerned that the UK is taking too many steps in the direction of Big Brother; information commissioner Richard Thomas is concerned that they are setting up a "surveillance society." Simon Davies, director of Privacy International, told the Times "It is quite right that the police should keep intelligence on suspected criminals, but it is obscene to suggest there should be a ‘crime idol’ list of those who might commit an offence."

Those of you who would shrug and say "what do the innocent have to fear from tight surveillance" might try a different approach - ask about the cost. Since 1994, Britain has installed 4.2 million closed circuit television cameras (CCTVs) throughout the country. Homicide rates have stayed approximately the same.

If you are interested in this concept, you might take a look at this earlier effort in which New York (USA) police officers try to predict robberies - and it worked!

Read a bit more here and here.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 11/28/2006)

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