The Saturday, August 21, 2010 L.A. Times features an article called “Stopping crime before it starts.” The article is about new technology being developed to help police (especially the LAPD), as the title suggests, stop crime before it starts. To predict the crime trends, and where crime is going to happen, due to many particular sets of circumstances, and then preemptively deploy police in that area.
This reminds me a bit of Philip K. Dick, thinking of the Los Angeles jungle, its many inhabitants, where the police, through sophisticated methods, watch the people instead of watching over the people. But cities like L.A., which have just under 10,000 police officers spread thinly over 469 square miles of city, could use all the help they can get in thwarting crime.
As an inhabitant of Los Angeles, living in the heart of the city, I often see the police helicopters circling an area of town, the wicked spotlight blasting from the hovering craft, its intent to spotlight someone who has, allegedly, done something criminal.
And I think, another person going to prison. Again.
Most people, it seems, are aware that the prison population has more than tripled since 1985. That’s ridiculous, if you think of that. More than 2.3 million Americans are in prison (read it here). One in 100 Americans. State governments pay over $50 billion each year to house the prisoners. Let your brain try to process that. Have people gotten worse since 1985? Are there more, to turn a phrase, ‘bad apples’? Of course not. There is a reason for crime.
The solution seems too simple, and it seems everybody knows it already, but with the idea of technology rapidly developing what is known as ‘predictive policing’, and the United States spending many millions on furthering ‘predictive policing’, the possible solution is not talked about, nor is it given any credence.
Why doesn’t the government put more of a vested interest in its citizens? Why won’t the government help its children (citizens) try to resolve their monetary issues, especially in times of economic crisis, as we have today? Why does the government prefer to spend millions on law enforcement procedures and weaponry when the largest reason for crime seems to be poverty?
Predictive policing is great, especially if it turns out to be as efficient as the L.A.Times article suspects it might. Stopping crime before it starts, giving the police an edge over the criminal is wonderful, and an advancement for society, when viewed that way.
But if many citizens are at their end, in desperate need of financial assistance, then why doesn’t the United States put millions, maybe even billions, into ‘predictive poverty’ and alleviate the potentially desperate, hard-up citizen before he finds it necessary to rob a store or turn to stupid crime?
Just so you know, there is also an article in the same Times issue that states California’s unemployment level is at 12.3%. That’s staggering, and sure to be a reason for much of the theft and criminal activity that plagues Los Angeles.