'Several California police departments have stopped using "predictive policing" software, but not out of concern for civil liberties – it's simply not working to predict crime, some of the tool's pioneers have grudgingly admitted.
"We didn't get any value out of it," Palo Alto police spokeswoman Janine De la Vega told the LA Times. The department tried PredPol, the predictive policing tool developed by a University of California at Los Angeles professor and the Los Angeles Police Department, for three years, only to find it served up information street patrols already had. "It didn't help us solve crime," De la Vega said.
Palo Alto police weren't the only ones disappointed. Mountain View, California spent over $60,000 on the software over five years before dropping the program last June. Rio Rancho, New Mexico Police Captain Andrew Rodriguez called it a "disappointment," adding "It wasn't telling us anything we didn't know."
Elsewhere, LAPD alumni have taken it upon themselves to spread the PredPol gospel; Birmingham, Alabama Police Chief Patrick Smith, a former LAPD commander, convinced his department to spend $60,000 on the program. PredPol CEO Brian MacDonald admits the program's marketing materials tout its usage by the LAPD, but insists that aspect has never clinched a sale.
The LAPD itself was forced to admit following an internal audit that after eight years, there was "insufficient data" showing PredPol to be effective in reducing crime, thanks to massive inconsistencies in oversight, criteria, and program implementation. In April, the department shelved another Orwellian program, which was found to be using "inconsistent criteria" to label people as future violent criminals. Last August, after a lawsuit from privacy and civil liberties groups forced the department to cough up its PredPol records, the LAPD discontinued another dystopian part of the program that picked out a list of "chronic offenders" every shift based on alleged gang membership, previous arrests, and one "point" for every "quality police contact."
PredPol uses 10 years of crime data, fed into the algorithm by type of crime, date, time, and location, in order to predict the next 12 hours, but it's only as scientific as the officers feeding it information. Civil liberties groups have highlighted the potential for self-fulfilling prophecies – if cops already over-police a given community, PredPol ensures their continued presence and makes it more likely they will continue to view that area and its residence as problems to be solved. Others claim PredPol weaponizes crime data to perpetuate existing racial bias, or that it is being used to give scientific cover to racist policies.'
Read more: Police dropping 'crime prediction' software… because it's ineffective, not because it's Orwellian
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