Kent police cancel ‘predictive policing’ software

Kent Police has stopped using a software that uses algorithms crunching crime numbers to help the police predict when and where a crime will occur, according to a Financial Times report.

For the past five years, Kent police have used a system developed by US firm, PredPol, to help them predict high probabilities of criminal activity.

“PredPol had a good record of predicting where crimes were likely to take place,” John Phillips, Superintendent of Kent told the FT. “What is more challenging is to show that we have been able to reduce crime with that information.”

The software cost the police around £100,000 per year, but was cancelled in March 2018.

Six percent drop in street violence

The software was introduced across the county in April 2013 after a four-month trial in Medway saw a 6% drop in street violence.

It was the first force within the UK to implement a data-driven approach to tracking and adapting to crime trends.

After Predpol agreed on a deal with the Los Angeles Police Department in 2011, property crime rates decreased within the first six months of using the firm’s technology.

According to Mr. Phillips, Kent police will continue to adopt techniques that harness the potential of new software technology to help fight and prevent crime, adding that they will attempt to work with a new partner or build their own internal system.

We think there is a future for predictive analytics in policing,” Mr. Phillips said. “We want a system that provides officers with the information to actually prevent crime, such as detailed information about past offences in that area,” he said.

Kent police plans to use internal predictive policing tools

Superintendent Philips told the FT that the force terminated their contract with PredPol to help the police save costs as they wanted to avoid paying a licence fee to an external company.

He added that the force hopes to use some kind of spatial mapping tech in 2019, but “extensive testing” will be needed to validate the technology.

Kent’s Police decision to cancel comes at a time when several police forces throughout the UK have begun trialing predictive policing tools. London’s Met have also been testing a software similar to PredPol’s.

However, non-profit organisations such as Big Brother Watch have criticised predictive policing measures that involve using surveillance technologies such as facial recognition.

In a blog post on their website, they said: “It is unacceptable that an intrusive technology such as this has not been subjected to public or parliamentary scrutiny. We call on Parliament to urgently consider the infringement of people’s privacy and liberties in police use of Automated Facial Recognition technology.”



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