Could AI and Predictive Analytics Stop Sex Offenders?


Predictive policing has come a long way in recent years. Police have always known when and where to step up patrols in certain city areas, for example, by applying simple predictive equations such as: payday + alcohol = trouble. You didn’t need to be a data scientist to anticipate a skirmish or three in bars on Friday night. But developments in data analytics and artificial intelligence are refining how law enforcement uses data and applies predictive analytics in a range of areas, focusing not just on overall trends but on individuals — and in the process renewing ethical concerns.

One area where predictive tools have caught on is with sex offenders. The Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s Office in Evansville, Indiana, for instance, this month joined a growing list of law enforcement agencies that have signed up with OffenderWatch, a sex offender registry network, for its Focus product, which the company says can help police better manage oversight of sex offenders.

OffenderWatch collects sex-offense data from more than 3,500 agencies, including information on about 60 percent of all sex offenders and other data from federal, state and local sources. Focus draws on that information and applies predictive analytics to over 100 risk factors in an individual sex offender’s record, the company says. It then comes up with a score that is added to an offender’s record, so police searching the system can identify those with highest risk factors. The sheriff’s office has been able to better identify and monitor high-risk offenders since it began using the system last fall, according to OffenderWatch’s release.

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This sounds like Minority Report.

I’ve never heard of OffenderWatch, but it sounds positively invasive, dangerous, and frightening to be unknowingly assigned a risk rating by it that may influence cops to harass you, monitor you, or otherwise single you out for special attention or treatment.

Better to hurt a thousand innocent people than let one guilty person go free.

Do we really need more Minority Report, junk/pseudo science? Absolutely not, but they WILL attempt to sell this as another “safety tool” to be used against registrants. This is creepy and cringey territory we’re entering.

Okay, so does LE believe this more accurately predicts sex offender risk? If so, why do they continue to use STATIC-99 – why don’t they switch to this? (Or do they simply prefer to use whichever one gives them the results/answer they want to see??)

As a data scientist myself I’m appalled to see predictive analytics applied in this fashion. Similar methods have been applied to fields such as finance so one company can get a slightly higher probability as compared to another in order to determine whether to sell or not. Using analytics to predict whether someone will reoffend is alarming!

Well, at least 100 “risk factors” . . . not just 10 risk factors as is the case in the Static 99R scam.

It’s all pseudo in the end.

What’s weird is that they say nothing about this product, “Focus” on their webpage. They say nothing about predictive capabilities using “OffenderWatch.” Regardless, it’s bullshit.

Once again, they’re spending all this time, effort and money focusing on those who have already been convicted and punished. If their true goal is to prevent sexual abuse, why are they not attempting to prevent the 97+% of sexual abuse that is perpetrated by family members, friends, teachers, coaches and clergy NOT listed on the Registry? Because such a high percentage of cases are committed by those NOT on the Registry, even if their AI methods are 100% accurate and successful, they would still only be reducing the occurrence of sexual abuse by 2-3%.

My opinion based on empirical statistics over the years shows me this is just another junk science scheme. According to popular opinion those of us forced to register are raping countless little girls on a daily basis; the evidence shows the total opposite is true. The vast majority of those forced to register have never repeated the act that landed us on the lie called the sex offender registry and are no more likely to do so as the next person who is not on the registry. Unfortunately for registrants everywhere politicians and LE seem to love and embrace junk science.