Police are using discriminatory computer programs to predict where and when crime will be committed, who will commit it, and even who the victims might be. This dangerous practice must stop.
Our research has revealed that at least 14 UK police forces have used or intend to use discriminatory computer algorithms to predict where crime will be committed and by whom.
We know of two types of predictive policing programs: predictive mapping programs and individual risk assessment programs.
Predictive mapping programs use police data about past crimes to identify ‘hot spots’ on a map. Police then patrol these areas.
Individual risk assessment programs predict how people will behave, including whether they are likely to commit – or be the victims of – certain crimes.
Durham Constabulary uses the Harm Assessment Risk Tool (HART), which bases its prediction on personal characteristics including age, gender and postcode. It has also considered ‘cramped houses’ and ‘jobs with high turnover’ when deciding the probability of a person committing crime.
Avon and Somerset Police’s risk assessment program even predicts the likelihood of a person committing or suffering serious domestic violence or violent sexual offences.
WHY SHOULD WE BE CONCERNED?
The predictive programs aren’t neutral. They are trained by people and rely on existing police data, and so they reflect patterns of discrimination and further embed them into police practice.
For instance, mapping programs direct officers to already over-policed areas, while individual risk assessment programs encourage an approach to policing based on discriminatory profiling.
The public is given very little information about how predictive algorithms reach their decisions – and even the police don’t understand how they do it. This lack of transparency and understanding means these programs can’t be properly scrutinised and life-changing decisions are near-impossible to challenge.
WHAT ARE WE CALLING FOR?
Predictive policing tools should not influence decision-making that impacts our rights.
We’re calling on police forces to end their use of these dangerous and discriminatory programs.
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