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Should police use computers to predict crimes and criminals?

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13.07.2018

Years of secrecy by America's police departments about their use of computer programs predicting where crimes will occur, and who will commit them, are under fire in legal cases nationwide.

The largest departments — New York, Chicago and Los Angeles — are all being sued for not releasing information about their "predictive policing" programs, which use algorithms to crunch data and create lists of people and neighborhoods for officers to target. Some smaller departments also have been brought to court and before public records agencies.

A top concern, advocates say, is that the computer programs perpetuate the problem of minorities being arrested at higher rates than whites. If arrest and crime location data that show such biases are fed into the algorithms, they argue, police will continue targeting minorities and minority neighborhoods at higher rates.

Several groups and organizations have taken police agencies to court in an effort to find out what data is being fed into the programs, how the algorithms work and exactly what the end results are, including which people and areas are on the lists and how police are using the data.

"Everybody is trying to find out how it works, if it's fair," said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst for the American Civil Liberties Union. "This is all pretty new. This is all experimental. And there are reasons to think this is discriminatory in many ways."

The programs are developed by private companies such as Palantir and PrePol and can tell police where and when crimes are likely to occur by........

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