Predictive policing has garnered considerable academic and popular interest in recent years. Harnessing techniques of predictive analytics and data mining drawn from commercial, scientific and military fields, predictive policing extends the promise of pre-empting and forestalling criminal actions in real time. This paper interrogates the claims of predictive policing and its envisaged futures, ranging from the utopian visions of industry through to the dystopian vistas sketched in critical scholarship. The paper also considers the contribution and limitations of traditional policing scholarship, which on one level provides important insights into the contingent and contextual nature of technological innovations in policing, yet on another level can also constrain analysis within narrow empirical parameters concerned primarily with evaluation and organizational accountability.
Dean Wilson is Professor of Criminology in the Department of Sociology, University of Sussex. Dean’s research areas include policing, surveillance, security and technology; and he has published articles on biometrics, border control and policing. His most recent publication (with Jude McCulloch) is Pre-Crime: Pre-Emption, Precaution and the Future (2016 Routledge). Dean is currently researching predictive policing and its implications for the future of law enforcement organizations.