July 22, 2015 | Commentary on Legal Issues, Crime, Democracy and Human Rights

Minority Report? It’s Not Science Fiction in NYC

In the future, top cop Tom Cruise uses sci-fi technology to single out and arrest violent criminals before they commit a crime. The 2002 hit movie seemed like such a super cool idea that Fox is bringing the concept back as a series starting in September. But the cautionary tale, originally penned by science fiction writer Philip K. Dick in 1956, may be more than science fiction after all.

According to news reports, “The New York Police Department is embarking on a new experiment with ‘predictive policing.’” The department will study “neighborhood-specific data like weather, time of year, school calendars and past criminal activity to create statistical models that forecast where and when certain crimes are likely to occur.”

Intelligence-led policing (trying to figure out where the crimes are going to be) is a controversial but increasingly more common tactic of metropolitan police departments.

The NYPD is taking the task to the next level through sophisticated software that merges predictors together and kicks out probabilities that certain kinds of crimes are more likely to occur. The Big Apple actually isn’t the first to try out this approach. It has also been used in cities in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Nebraska.

If that sounds one step closer to the Minority Report, “that’s not happening,” said the CEO of the company that developed the software.

We’ll see if the ACLU agrees.

 - James Jay Carafano is vice president of defense and foreign policy studies at The Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

James Jay Carafano, Ph.D. Vice President for the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, and the E. W. Richardson Fellow

Originally appeared in PJ Media