Algorithmic Patrol: The Futures of Predictive Policing

author: Dean Wilson, University of Sussex
published: July 24, 2017,   recorded: May 2017,   views: 854


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‘Predictive Policing’ has emerged as the key buzz term of contemporary policing. Engaging predictive analytics drawn from such diverse domains as disaster prediction, combat situations and supply-chain management, predictive policing extends the promise of anticipating crime prior to its actualization. Marketing materials are replete with strident claims of future crimes that are calculable, knowable and targetable before they transpire. Additionally, predictive policing is promoted as the ideal policing technology for a climate of fiscal austerity, with the capacity to direct police operations in a cost-effective fashion – removing the necessity for ‘costly’ measures such as community engagement. This chapter interrogates the claims of predictive policing, contextualizing them against the longer trajectory of information technology within police organizations. Predictive policing also emerges within a context of security commodification where astute marketing has advanced the view that future criminal acts – and persons – can be rendered visible and actionable in the present. In common with the central tenets of dataism, there is also an underlying logic that predictions will be rendered evermore precise through the accumulation and integration of an ever-expanding array of data sets. While acknowledging that the outcomes of predictive policing are likely to be highly contingent, both organizationally and geographically, it is argued that it represents a potentially disturbing trend in contemporary policing. The limited evaluation evidence to date suggests an elective affinity between predictive policing and the ‘criminologies of everyday life’ such as rational choice and routine activities theory, that privilege asocial technical solutions. The integration of SOCMINT (Social Media Intelligence) also presages forms of algorithmically guided ‘real-time’ anticipatory policing – the consequences of which remain uncertain. Nevertheless, it is argued that patterns of discriminatory policing and their attendant militaristic logics may well escalate, while simultaneously remaining obscured beneath the sheen of algorithmic calculation.

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