Avon & Somerset Police using "discriminative" predictive policing


A report has uncovered that Avon & Somerset are using controversial predictive policing measures including predictive mapping and individual risk assessment programmes. 

The controversial mapping programmes evaluate police data about past crimes and identify "hot spots" of high risk on a map. Police officers are then directed to patrol these areas - which are often communities already experiencing a disproportionate amount of police interventions to the level of crime in that area. 

The use of mapping has been criticised as it perpetuates pre-existing patterns of discrimination. For example, people from BAME communities are disproportionately more likely to be arrested, leading the programme to wrongly assume that the areas in which people from BAME communities live or spend time in are areas where there is more crime. 

Individual risk assessment programmes predict people's behaviour, including whether they are likely to commit or be victims of certain crimes. The programme uses multiple pieces of personal data, including people's names, personal characteristics and postcodes. These methods even involve people being assigned likely characteristics based purely on what their name is.

Liberty, a civil liberties advocacy group which published the report, said Avon & Somerset are using an "alarmingly broad variety of individual risk assessment programmes". They use the algorithm to assess a person's likelihood of re-offending, of perpetrating serious domestic violence or sexual violent offence, of perpetrating a burglary offence and being the victims of these crimes. 

According to Avon and Somerset Police, they use these predictive policing programs to "support the organisation’s assessment of risk at an individual person level"  and that "this technique is required to help understand risk and demand within the massive volumes of data collected on a daily basis"

James Cox, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Bristol West, said:

"Relying on predictive policing based on dubious and discriminative data is both a waste of valuable police resources but undermines communities' trust in police. 

"Predictive policing doesn't offer new insights, it doubles down on a self-fulfilling prophecy that unfairly targets BAME people and communities. This is an attack on our basic civil liberties. A police action based on profiling and pre-criminality puts our rights at risk and cannot be acceptable in a democracy. 

"Liberal Democrats demand better for our police and from our police. If, as reported, these methods are being accelerated because of government cuts, then we need to address that and put in the investment for proper and effective community policing. In the meantime, I am calling on Avon & Somerset police to stop using these discriminative programmes. The information gathered and used must be fully disclosed also with a view to ending the programmes as soon as possible."


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