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An AI Will Decide Which Criminals in the UK Get Bail

Published: May 10, 2017
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Source: Motherboard

Get arrested in Durham, England, and artificial intelligence could help decide whether you're held in custody or sent home—but it's not yet clear if the algorithm is more accurate than police officers when it comes to assessing whether someone is likely to reoffend.

Durham Constabulary has worked with academics from the University of Cambridge to develop the Harm Assessment Risk Tool (HART), an algorithm that analyses crime data and predicts whether an arrested suspect is likely to pose a risk if released from custody.

The tool is similar to those recently rolled out in the United States.

"The basic logic is to use the prior histories of thousands of people arrested and processed in Durham to forecast the level of risk of high harm they will cause by criminal acts within two years after they are arrested," Professor Lawrence Sherman, director of the Cambridge Centre for Evidence Based Policing, told Motherboard in an email.

Custody sergeants will be shown a rating of low, medium, and high risk, using that to help decide if a suspect should be released out on bail.

HART was trained on five years of data, including suspects' offending history, gender, and postcode. It was let loose on actual cases in 2013, and researchers found HART's predictions that a suspect was a low risk were accurate 98 percent of the time, while forecasts that they were high risk were accurate 88 percent of the time. However, there is no baseline data on the accuracy of human officers' decisions to compare against.

 

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