Police under fire for solving crimes using algorithms in real Minority Report

A sheriff in Florida has been arresting criminals using data like a real life Minority Report.

Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco implemented the controversial program after he took office in 2011.

The senior cop promised that it would make communities safer by relying on data to reduce and prevent crime.

But the sprawling intelligence programme trying to predict crime has come under fire in a bombshell new investigation.

The Tampa Bay Times revealed that the staggering set up has been rife with harassment and intimidation against residents who are suspected of committing crimes.

The “cutting edge system” generates a list of people it considers likely to break the law, based on arrest histories, unspecified intelligence and “arbitrary decisions” by police analysts, the Times reports.

It is not dissimilar to the 2002 Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg cult classic film Minority Report.

In the flick, Cruise plays a specialised future cop arresting crooks based on data provided by psychics.

Sheriff Nocco’s real life intelligence programme has been accused of using flagrant force against residents who are suspected of committing crimes.

Nearly two dozen people targeted by Pasco cops shared their harrowing experiences with the Tampa Bay Times.

In one example, police targeted a 15-year-old boy and visited his home 21 times in three months because he was convicted of trespassing and theft a year earlier.

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And in another story shared by the Times, a teenager target’s father was arrested after cops spotted his son’s 17-year-old friend smoking outside his house.

Detectives continued to monitor the home so rigorously that ultimately the family moved away.

The preemptive police work based on data and intelligence has drawn fierce critics.

Matthew Barge, an expert in police practices and civil rights, called the practices “morally repugnant”.

The outlet brought their findings to 15 experts who reviewed evidence and widely condemned the Sheriff’s practices.

One of those experts was David Kennedy, a criminologist at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

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Kennedy called the program “one of the worst manifestations of the intersection of junk science and bad policing — and an absolute absence of common sense and humanity — that I have seen in my career”.

The Sheriff's Office said that an initial list of targets is compiled by a computer every 90 days, before analysts go through it and determine which 100 people should be on the final list.

Records showed that the Sheriff's office has performed more than 12,500 checks since September 2015.

In response to criticisms about the programme, a spokesman for the Sherrif’s office said: “We again would like to reiterate our firm stance that Intelligence Led Policing has worked to reduce property crimes in Pasco County and continues to work in agencies in our area that also use this model such as Hillsborough County.

“This success is documented in the below chart that shows a decrease in property crimes from 2011 (when Sheriff Nocco first became Sheriff) through 2019 (the most recent data available) as reported by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program.”

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