Predicting crimes BEFORE they happen: Berlin police adopt Minority Report-style software that seeks out criminal behaviour

Wednesday, December 3, 2014
By Paul Martin

Police in Berlin are trialling software that predicts crimes using old data
The name of the ‘Precobs’ program is inspired by the film Minority Report
In the film, psychics called ‘precogs’ have visions about future crimes
The German program predicts when and where crime is likely to occur
But, a civil rights activist voiced concern that personal data could eventually be used, instead of the currently anonymous information

By Sarah Griffiths
2 December 2014

When police officers in Minority Report predicted who would commit crimes, and stopped them before they happened, it was considered so futuristic the film was set in 2054.

But, police in Berlin are considering adopting a similar software that predicts crimes and is named ‘Precobs’ – in a nod to the sci-fi film.

Other forces, including police officers in two American states and London’s Metropolitan Police are also trialling predictive systems to catch would-be criminals.

Developed by a German firm, the software program predicts when and where a crime is most likely to occur, based on different sets of data.

It is being tested by police in the southern state of Bavaria.

The Berlin police is first waiting for the results of the trial run in Bavaria’ before deciding on on whether to acquire Precobs, a spokesman said.

The name is a contraction of ‘Pre-Crime Observation System’.

The ‘Precobs’ title borrows deliberately from the ‘precog’ term used in Minority Report referring to three psychics who predict crimes before they happen.

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