'Minority Report' moves from reel into real life

Indo Asian News Service

London, Aug 27 (IANS) In a chilling scenario that reminds you of Steven Spielberg's sci-fi thriller 'Minority Report', law enforcers in the US will be relying on a software to predict who will commit crimes.

The software may even be able to tell where, when and how the crime will be committed, just as it happened in the 2002 movie.

The programme collates a range of variables then uses an algorithm to work out who is most certain to commit an offence, reports the Daily Mail.

The software is likely to spark an outcry from civil rights groups over its unmistakable resemblance to the 'Minority Report'.

In the movie, Tom Cruise heads a 'Precrime' unit which uses genetically altered humans known as 'Pre Cogs' to look into the future to prevent crimes before they happen.

Should trials validate the software, it could help set bail amounts and suggest sentencing recommendations too.

Initially, it will be used by law enforcement agencies in Washington DC and if successful, it would implemented all over the nation.

Developed by Richard Berk, 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.

But now it is being taken one step further in Washington DC to look into the future.

'When a person goes on probation or parole, they are supervised by an officer. The question that officer has to answer is 'what level of supervision do you provide?',' said Professor Berk.

'It used to be that parole officers used the person's criminal record, and their good judgment, to determine that level.'

'This research replaces those seat-of-the-pants calculations,' he said. The technology sifts through around two dozen variables, from criminal records to geographic location.

The type of crime, and more importantly, the age at which that crime was committed, were two of the most predictive variables.

From a dataset of 60,000 crimes including murder, the research team found a subset of people more likely to commit crime when out on parole or bail.