Could Fighting Crime with Computers Handcuff Rights?

Megan Lynch @MLynchOnAir

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – This week, KMOX News told you how police departments are using sophisticated software to target patrols in problem areas.

Could computer programs someday wipe out crime? Maybe. But one local attorney is asking—at what cost to your freedoms?

In a recent case in Texas, a judge ruled that evidence a crime MIGHT be committed was enough for a warrant.

“I think it’s clearly the kind of cases we will see in the future,” says Brad Young, attorney with Harris, Dowell, Fisher and Harris in Chesterfield. “As the analytics get better and as the software and the hardware gets better and the police get better at using this information, that’s the direction that it will be going.”

Young cautions that could create a real risk of lines being crossed. “Despite some recent case law from other states, there still needs to be some evidence of a current criminal activity before an arrest can be made, or certainly before a warrant can be issued,” he says.

When it comes to computer analysis generating lists of possible suspects, Young says, “One of the things I would want to look at is whether or not police are using proper or improper foundations upon which to either investigate criminal or potential criminal activity and the basis upon which warrants are issued.” While he points out that past criminal behavior is a valid basis for consideration, “if that should morph into something else, for example a profiling based upon race or ethnicity, at that point it would stray into an unconstitutional basis,” he says.

Young says as technology becomes more of a basis for investigating crimes, society will have to make sure “constitutional principals aren’t being violated in the name of crime prevention.”

For now, as police departments use predictive analytics to target their patrols, Young adds, “For the vast majority of people in a neighborhood, I think they would be encouraged that this kind of activity and this kind of analysis is being made.”

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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