Predictive Policing

This scenario concerns predictive policing. In 2025, the financial crisis has meant that the police have had to do more with less. In most Chinese cities, facial recognition on CCTV is now standard. With other means of societal surveillance, such as biometrics on public transport and the universal Social Credit System that tracks bank records and voice recognition ATMs, many see China as having become the archetypal “surveillance state”. There have been governmental intrusions upon the privacy of some citizens, but this is a price the majority appear willing to pay for their convenience and safety. The US has been using algorithmic-based predictive policing for some years now; it has ceased to be a “live” political issue. In less wealthy countries, predictive policing systems are used primarily to protect the rich from the poor, creating virtual gated communities. Europe is caught in the middle. The ageing European population fears that the waves of millions of undocumented immigrants coming into Europe will increase crime in Europe. Younger Europeans are more empathetic. Politicians have difficulty developing a consistent and effective response to the immigration issue as well as rising crime. Support for the far right and the far left continues to rise, causing significant societal conflict; each side is compounding social divisions. Violence, fraud, online scams and hacking are all significant problems for social stability.

In response to these challenges, the police need to remain effective and accountable. Smart policing systems that predict the location and sometimes the perpetrators of crimes can help to compensate for the lack of resources. However, they are also criticised for invading the privacy of citizens, and Europe has always seen itself as the voice of reason on human rights. The European Charter for Fundamental Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights are known globally and are often used as yardsticks on such matters by the UN. Can Europe be seen to backtrack? Can all of these developments be subsumed under the legal exceptions of radicalisation and counter-terrorism, even when many of these approaches are clearly a response to low-level and white-collar crime? Is it time to expand such exceptions to include the promotion of civil unrest? There are some technical solutions: AI that is transparent in its processes, for example, will more likely avoid biases and might help with adherence to fundamental rights, but more needs to be done to restore trust in the police.