Miami Cyber Crime News: Could “Predictive Policing” Algorithm Alter Police Approach in Miami? And What of the 4th Amendment?

July 16, 2012 by David S. Seltzer

The battle over how to thwart cyber crimes in Miami and other U.S. cities has reached a fever pitch. For decades, police and investigators have been locked in a Cyber Crime Arms Race, if you will, against hackers, spammers, and other criminals.

Each side constantly tests the other’s tactics and strategies. It’s like an ongoing, three-dimensional, high complex game of high stakes chess.

A new weapon has entered into the fray.

It's called the "predictive policing" algorithm. A computer generated system, called CompStat, alerts law enforcement officers to investigate potential crime scenes before criminal acts even occur! The system uses past and present data to identify potential criminal hot spots. Thusfar, the algorithm has been a roaring success in places like Santa Cruz, California and Los Angeles – enough to inspire Time Magazine to call predictive policing one of the top inventions of 2011.

The Florida cyber crime defense attorneys at Seltzer Law, PA, have mixed feelings about the initiative. On the one hand, everyone wants our streets to be safer. On the other hand, the predictive policing scheme raises 4th Amendment questions.

The 4th Amendment, as you likely recall from civics class, says that police cannot engage in illegal searches and seizures.

In that context, consider this hypothetical. Say a police officer learns about a potential burglary in a neighborhood, thanks to CompStat or some other computer algorithm. The officer then stops a man carrying a piece of luggage, finds that he's carrying drugs and weapons, and arrests him.

Was that stop Constitutional or not? If the luggage had not been suspicious -- and the officer had no reason to suspect criminal activity, but for the silicon intuition of CompStat -- well, then we might just have a 4th Amendment issue.

People who live in "hot spot" areas, as designated by systems like CompStat, might see their civil liberties infringed upon. So far, no Fourth Amendment cases have stemmed from this policing innovation. But analysts who are deeply familiar with law enforcement’s processes and procedures suggest that such cases could arise.

Andrew Ferguson, a law professor at the University of the District of Columbia, noted the LAPD’s success with predictive policing but warned, “there are real pressures to expand this nationally and see it succeed… I think it’s an important innovation. But like any innovation, it’s not foolproof, and looking closely at the data is important to ensure it doesn’t harm the civil liberties of the people living in those areas.”

Miami Cyber Crime Defense

Whether you’ve been arrested for hacking into a corporate bureaucracy, stealing money from online bank accounts, or phishing or spamming in Florida or elsewhere, the Seltzer Law, PA team is here to provide an aggressive, sympathetic defense for you.

Even small scale cyber crimes have funny ways of evolving into highly complex legal debates. If you want to avoid punishments like jail time, loss of a professional license, massive fines, extradition, etc., you need a team on your side that has experienced with Florida cyber criminal defense. Get in touch with us immediately, any time of day or night, by calling our hotline: 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (888-843-3333).