Real-life Minority Report: Police plan to use A.I. to prevent crimes

  • Technology would take data and use algorithms to try and predict risk of crime
  • Police chief tells biometrics conference there is 'huge untapped' potential in A.I.

Police chiefs are planning to use artificial intelligence (AI) to predict and prevent crime, the Mail can reveal.

The move echoes the 2002 sci-fi film Minority Report, starring Tom Cruise – in which police use psychics to stop crimes before they happen.

AI systems take the vast amounts of data available to police and use algorithms to try to predict the risk of crimes so officers can attempt to prevent them.

The technology could also be used to weigh up the risk of allowing suspects out on bail – and even vet police officers by checking their names against criminal records databases.

real-life minority report: police plan to use a.i. to prevent crimes

Vision of the future? Tom Cruise in the 2002 Hollywood hit Minority Report

The move was outlined at a conference on biometrics – AI and other technology – hosted by the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) in Edinburgh this week.

Assistant Chief Constable Andy Freeburn said Police Scotland wanted to explore the limits of what AI could achieve but said it was important to have a ‘conversation with the Scottish public’.

Commenting on possible ethical concerns, Chief Constable Jo Farrell said: ‘Researchers and medics talk about AI within a health setting – and there is little push-back to that.

‘No one throws their hands in the air and demands explanations about why AI is being used to detect and identify a particular disease at an early stage.’

She said AI is already part of society ‘and our data and our presence is being used’, adding: ‘Yet when we talk about it in a policing context, straight away we’re into preventing harm versus rights and liberties. In policing, we haven’t landed that message [about the value of AI] in the same way that medicine has.’

AI can identify patterns and links in evidence, and sift through data more quickly than humans.

A team at the University of Chicago has even developed an algorithm that claims to be able to predict crimes a week in advance, with 90 per cent accuracy.

But Professor Paul Wiles, former Commissioner for the Retention and Use of Biometric Material for the UK Government, said allowing AI to ‘make decisions’ in the criminal justice system could risk ‘miscarriages of justice’.

An AI system trialled by Humberside Police links directly into UK police databases so that when a domestic abuse victim tells a 999 call-handler the name of her husband, for example, the AI quickly retrieves his details.

This could raise an alert that the man is known to have a gun licence, which means that armed officers are needed.

Fiona Douglas, director of forensic services at the SPA, told the conference: ‘We must proceed further – with ambition balanced with caution – to ensure that we maintain the integrity of the science, but maximise the value that biometrics will bring now and into the future.’

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