Computer Model Targets Crime “Hotspots,” Poses Risk of 4th Amendment Violations

Posted by Steve Eversole | Nov 06, 2013 | 0 Comments

Computer modeling has been popular in developing the latest automotive technology, mapping weather patterns, and devising new medical treatments. Now computer modeling may be used to target crime “hotspots.” Researchers argue that the new technology could stop crimes before they happen, but the modeling also poses a risk of potential 4th Amendment violations. For individuals located in targeted areas, they too may be unfairly targeted in criminal investigations.

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While law enforcement agencies have an incentive to use technology to prevent and prosecute crimes, any advancement should be scrutinized. In the past, technologies used to enhance the ability to collect evidence and catch criminals have also been identified with Constitutional violations. OurBirmingham criminal defense lawyers are experienced with investigation techniques and technologies used to prosecute defendants throughout the state. We are abreast of these advancements used by law enforcement agencies and work strategically to challenge any evidence illegally obtained and used against our clients.

A new computer model, using census data, predicts were burglaries and other crimes are likely to occur. According to researchers, the technology can be used by law enforcement agencies to identify and locate criminal activity and to send officers accordingly. Studies indicate that this kind of computer modeling has resulted in a decline over the first 9 months of 2013.

The computer modeling technology is the collaboration between a sociologist and law enforcement specialists with the intention of stopping crimes before they happen. the computer model was presented at a law enforcement conference and has been funded by a grant from the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) Smart Policing Initiative, which is working to stop crime in specific communities.

While the research has been interpreted as a positive step for law enforcement, it should be scrutinized. Any computer system that claims to predict crimes before they happen could leave individuals at risk of 4th Amendment violations. Law enforcement officers justifying any stop with a computer program have a huge potential to infringe on civil liberties and rights of residents.

The computer model uses crime data and truancy records, finding that truants account for a significant portion of daytime burglaries. The researchers pattern prediction of changes of criminal activity over time and space. Accordingly, the computer model can account and detect for changes over time and a variety of crime locations but not both. The researchers, allegedly, found a strong connection between the number of truancies and daytime robberies.

Advocates for the new technology claim that the data leverages statistical power to make “future predictions” about criminal activity. The computer modeling could present some 4th Amendment complications and even raise questions about probable cause for officers who allege that targets were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Individuals who are targeted, stopped or pulled over while in these hotspots could also face additional discrimination, including racial profiling. Though law enforcement agents think they can stop crimes before they happen, technology should not be used to account for potential civil rights violations. If you were charged with a crime, you need an experienced advocate who can review the prosecution's case, challenge illegally obtained evidence and defend your rights.

About the Author

Steve Eversole

Admitted to practice in All State and Federal Courts in Alabama: AllAlabama State Courts, Alabama Supreme Court, Alabama Court of Appeals,Northern...

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