The crime rate in Philadelphia may be worse than people thought. The city today said it is working with University of Pennsylvania criminologist Richard Berk to develop software that can forecast who might commit murder.
While the software sounds like something straight out of Minority Report — “In the future, criminals are caught before the crimes they commit” — a
story said using data from the Philadelphia probation department, Berk and three colleagues have built a model for predicting which troublemakers already in the prison system are most likely to kill or attempt a killing or “future lethality,” as Berk calls it.
The story reported that initial research suggests the software-based system can make it 40 times more likely for caseworkers to accurately predict murder than they can using current practices.
Asked which, if any, indicators stood out as reliable predicators of homicide, Berk pointed to one in particular: youthful exposure to violence. In other words some one who commits a violent crime early in life is more likely to commit a similar or worse crime again. But experts agree, trying to classify who might murder is complicated and tricky at best.
What remains at this stage is to find a way to marry the software to the probation department’s information technology system, the Inquirer says.
According to the University of Pennsylvania’s Web site, Berk works on a wide variety of issues in criminology, including inmate classification and placement systems, law enforcement strategies for reducing domestic violence, the role of race in capital punishment, detecting violations of environmental regulations, claims that the death penalty serves as a general deterrent, and forecasting short-term changes in urban crime patterns.
This story is reprinted from