After initial testing in two precincts, The Seattle Police Department and Mayor Mike McGinn announced last week that they will now deploy their “Predictive Policing” software to all five precincts.
The federally-funded cloud-based crime prediction software known as PREDPOL, uses mathematical algorithms similar to ones used in earthquake prediction to predict when and where a future crime is most likely to take place down to a 500-square foot area. The program combines five years’ worth of past crime data with sociological information about criminal behavior.
“We’ve had anecdotal successes with the pilot project in East and Southwest Precincts, so we’re expanding Predictive Policing citywide,” said Mayor McGinn
“We’re asking the community to get involved by reporting even minor property crimes so we can improve our data set and predict where crime is likely to occur. This is a tool that can help us prevent some crimes before they happen, so it’s very important that community members get involved.”
Despite the assurance that the program doesn’t target individuals, civil liberties advocates have already questioned the software and the possible dangers to privacy and constitutional rights down the road. Some worry the Police may target citizens who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, simply based off of what a computer tells them.
Given the City of Seattle’s involvement in the secret pilot program TrapWire, a surveilance camera program that ran citizens faces through facial recognition software unknowingly, Seattle residents are hesitant to trust the program or the Seattle Police who were recently under federal investigation for their routine and widespread use of excessive force.
Even with some hesitant citizens, the Seattle police are asking local residents to report any and every crime to help build up the department’s crime prediction database.
“With the community’s help, we can prevent some crimes before they take place by being in the right place at the right time,” said Deputy Chief Metz.
Seattle also received a $5 million federal grant last year which went towards 30 Department of Homeland Security-funded surveillance cameras on Seattle’s waterfront area. Despite the claim that the cameras were for the coast line to protect the Port of Seattle from terrorism, the cameras were caught pointing inward, watching Seattle residents by “accident.”