The Current

Predictive policing making inroads into Canada despite civil liberty concerns

Will data-driven policing help prevent crimes free of human biases, or will it lead to racial profiling?
Police officials in the U.S. say they are having success with a computer algorithm model that helps determine where to send officers to prevent or possibly interrupt a crime. (Damian Dovarganes/AP)

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Predictive policing involves data mining information that police and government agencies track to help give authorities an idea of where crime is likely to occur.

More Moneyball than Minority Report, predictive policing identifies patterns and plays with probabilities but it doesn't pinpoint the future.

The Vancouver Police Department is in the early stages of a pilot project and last month the Saskatchewan Police Predictive Analytics Laboratory was officially launched in Saskatoon.

It's a joint venture between the Saskatoon Police Service, the University of Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan Ministry of Justice.
Faiza Patel is co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. (Martial Trezzini/AP Photo/Keystone)
The United States has had a much longer relationship with predictive policing than Canada. And south of the border, some people have been raising cautionary flags about where data-driven policing could be going. 

Our guests this segment:

  • Stephen Wormith is a professor of psychology and director of the Centre for Forensic Behavioural Science and Justice Studies at the University of Saskatchewan. He believes the data from predictive policing will help reduce crime.
  • Faiza Patel, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, says we need to be cautious to make sure predictive policing doesn't lead to racial profiling.

This segment was produced by The Current's Howard Goldenthal.