Threat-scoring software from Beware is the latest in predictive policing applications. Critics worry about accuracy of the score, as well as privacy.
Police have always relied on data to do their jobs, but until now it was static data that took time to look up and compile. Now departments can use streaming data and predictive analytics to help them fight crime and decide how to best handle 911 calls.
According to a Jan. 10 article in the Washington Post, the Fresno Police Department is one of the first in the country to launch a “Real-Time Crime Center” using threat-scoring software Beware. The software analyzes data from a variety of sources, including court records, social media postings and other public records and uses those insights to assign a threat level–red, yellow or green–to a particular person or address. Police say the info helps them gauge what to expect when they respond to a call and how to best respond to it.
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Critics worry the software might misinterpret a piece of data and assign someone an elevated threat level, resulting in an inappropriately harsh police response. The Fresno Police Department says officers never see the actual score, so the concern is unwarranted. It’s used only to help dispatchers guide officer response. The ACLU has called for meaningful debate on the privacy concerns surrounding such data collection. Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer says he is working with Intrado, the company behind Beware, to address those concerns.
Beware is one of many tools used in preventive/predictive policing applications. Some smart cities use gunshot detection and smart lighting applications to reduce crime. Other cities have turned to software such as Hunchlab to predict when and where crimes will occur.
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