Did you see the 2002 movie Minority Report? Back then, it was science fiction; now it’s getting close to reality. In Minority Report, police departments had “PreCrime” units where “precogs” (strange psychic bodies that lived in liquid pools) were able to predict when a person was going to commit a crime. Based on this knowledge, the police would arrest the individual before they had the chance to commit the crime.

Today, police departments are utilizing predictive policing technology to pre-empt criminal activity. They don’t employ precogs, but they do use algorithms. And they aren’t arresting people before they commit a crime – at least not yet, but they do plan policing day-by-day based on software predictions. Utilizing algorithms, the Los Angeles Police Department’s program PredPol (the title itself sounds dystopian) identifies 150 square-meter areas where certain types of crime are more likely to occur on any given day. The PredPol technology got its start when then LAPD Chief, Bill Bratton, went to UCLA researchers seeking a way to use the historical data compiled by the LAPD to pre-emptively deploy the police force wherever crime was likely to occur.  Using the PredPol algorithms the LAPD sends units to patrol these “hotspots” based on the predictions.

This is not a matter of just beefing up the police force in high-crime areas, it’s way beyond that. Data is continuously fed into the model resulting in ever-changing predictions. The algorithms predict the highest risk areas for any particular crime on any particular day and at any particular time, thereby theoretically (and perhaps factually) stopping the crime before it happens, or at least being there when it does.

Operation LASER (Los Angeles Strategic Extraction and Restoration) is another LAPD policing tool that alerts officers to where a crime is most likely to occur and keeps track of residents identified as most likely to commit a crime. The LASER technology was developed by the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) venture capital unit (yes, there is such a thing). It provides the LAPD with high tech analysis that “lasers” in on where crime is likely to occur and by whom.

Back to our movie, Minority Report. In the movie, the police would whoosh in seconds before a crime was committed and arrest the would-be perpetrator. With PredPol and LASER, the police are able to deter the crime or, failing that, respond within minutes, even seconds, after a crime has occurred. Many have hailed these programs for dramatically reducing crime. But predictive policing is a double-edged sword.  Critics of these programs have grave reservations. Both predictive policing programs have been challenged on privacy issues and for targeting minorities and minority neighborhoods.

In Minority Report, the PreCrime unit was corrupted from the inside to serve the interests of certain individuals.   I can think of many ways the predictive policing programs, which aren’t just confined to Los Angeles but being used across the country, can be manipulated or exploited to benefit interests the programs are not designed to serve.

I can also envision defense opportunities for individuals arrested for a predicted crime: Suppression of the evidenceif there was a violation of search and seizure laws, for instance.  I have 25 years of experience defending criminal charges. My skills were nurtured in simpler times, but it is upon those skills that I apply my practice to the ever-changing technology in service to my mission: to provide the best possible defense for my clients.

Orange County criminal defense attorney offers a complimentary consultation regarding your criminal matter. You can call him at his Irvine office at 949-474-8008 or contact him by email at