Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Department of Precrime

Here's another "seemed like a good idea at the time":

New crime prediction software being rolled out in the nation's capital should reduce not only the murder rate, but the rate of many other crimes as well.

Developed by Richard Berk, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, the software is already used in Baltimore and Philadelphia to predict which individuals on probation or parole are most likely to murder and to be murdered.

In his latest version, the one being implemented in D.C., Berk goes even further, identifying the individuals most likely to commit crimes other than murder.

If the software proves successful, it could influence sentencing recommendations and bail amounts.

This reminds me of a parts order from several years back. What? Parts order? Yeah, I got a big, rush, want-it-done-yesterday, job a few years back. So I order a ton of repair parts to be shipped overnight. But the parts don't come. So I call - my order girl doesn't know why they didn't ship - they'll call me back. Next day I call again, and finally find out that someone in their billing department noticed an ordering pattern that he thought might indicate that I was a company that was contemplating bankruptcy and would probably skip out on my bill. (despite being a customer for over ten years) Turns out he'd read an article in some business magazine where they'd sketched out some kind of predictive algorithm...

I forget if I had to do COD for awhile or what, but I definitely remember not being able to get the job done on time because of this idiot. Imagine if he'd had the authority to deny me bail because an algorithm said I was going to commit a crime.