Technology, data and reliable prediction

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Predicting the future, and events, is of course not an exact science, and recent political elections and referendums will testify. However, in part as an answer to economic cuts, reduced workforce and resources and other demands upon their services, the police in England and Wales have naturally looked to technology to assist. This technology includes such as automatic identification for vehicle registration numbers, the increased use of drones, hand held computer for officers and of course different types of analyses of data and information to assist in providing adequate resources at high demand times. The use of technology and computer assisted decision making has even reached the hallowed halls of the custody office. Witness reports that Durham constabulary are using 'artificial intelligence' designed to help officers decide whether or not a suspect should be kept in custody. The system classifies suspects at a low, medium or high risk of offending and has been tested by the force, and it has been trained on five years of offending histories data. It is alleged the tool could be useful, and Data for the Harm Assessment Risk Tool (Hart) was taken from Durham police records between 2008 and 2012. Apparently the system was tested during 2013, and the results showing whether suspects did in fact offend or not were monitored over the following two years. It appears forecasts that a suspect was low risk turned out to be accurate 98% of the time, while forecasts that they were high risk were accurate 88% of the time. Indeed, Kent police, considered to be one of the pioneers of this type of predictive policing in the UK reported that their trial of software based upon data analysis utilizing certain algorithms, was 60% better at spotting where crimes would take place than the force analyst. These kind of initiatives, and similar approaches to the use of data, could well become the norm as police try rationalize their working processes. It appears to fit into the already well-known use of information and data for 'geospace' analysis for crime and incidents and the general intelligence led policing approach. These approaches are of course dependent upon what is commonly referred to as 'Big Data' the analysis of such, particularly the use of algorithms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8-9
Number of pages2
JournalAustralasian Institute of Policing Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018


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