Australian Cops Are Pre-Criming Students Too, Setting Minors Up For A Lifetime Of Harassment

from the procedural-crime-generation dept

It’s not just American law enforcement agencies turning kids into criminals. They’re doing it in Australia too. In Florida, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office uses software to mark kids as budding criminals, using questionable markers like D-grades, witnessing domestic violence, or being the victim of a crime. The spreadsheet adds it all up and gives deputies a thumbs up to start treating students like criminals, even if they’ve never committed a criminal act.

Over in Australia, the process seems to be a bit more rigorous, but the outcome is the same: non-criminals marked (possibly for life) as potential criminals who should be targeted with more law enforcement intervention.

Victorian police say a secretive data tool that tracked youths and predicted the risk they would commit crime is not being widely used, amid fears it leads to young people from culturally diverse backgrounds being disproportionately targeted.

The tool, which had been used in Dandenong and surrounding suburbs, was only revealed in interviews with police officers published earlier this year.

Between 2016 and 2018, police categorised young people as “youth network offenders” or “core youth network offenders”.

It takes a bit more to be added to this secret list — one police have managed to keep hidden from the general public. Even the program’s name remains a secret. This means parents are never informed when cops decide their kids are criminals-in-development. It also possibly means schools aren’t aware the data they’re feeding the police is being used this way.

According to the research paper detailing the program, Victoria police have classified 40-60 students as “core youth network offenders.” Another 240 students were classified as “youth network offenders.” To get placed on these exclusive lists, students must be charged dozens of times with “offenses,” running from 20 for the 10-14-year-old group to over 60 for 18-year-olds. It’s unclear from the context of the report whether this means criminal offenses or in-school discipline “offenses,” but the latter seems more likely. Someone criminally charged over 60 times before they reached the age of 18 wouldn’t need to be on a secret youth offender list to be on law enforcement’s radar.

The Victoria police appear to believe the tech is actually magic.

“We can run that tool now and it will tell us – like the kid might be 15 – it tells how many crimes he is going to commit before he is 21 based on that, and it is a 95% accuracy,” one senior officer told [researchers]. “It has been tested.

Actual pre-crime, stripped of all the obfuscating language that normally surrounds statements on profiling/predictive policing programs. This program can actually predict criminal acts… at least according to its proponents and users. Presumably the police aren’t locking up listed students ahead of any wrongdoing, but they’re certainly increasing their interactions and surveillance of students the tool said will commit [x] crimes over the next few years.

And, like every goddamn predictive policing program that exists anywhere, it focuses on minorities and other disadvantaged residents.

In Dandenong, 67% of households spoke a language other than English at home, more than three times the national average, according to the 2016 census. Almost 80% of all residents had parents who were both born overseas, more than double the national average.

The weekly household income was $412 less than the Australian median, and the unemployment rate of 13% was almost double the national figure.

Cheer up. The cops are here to take everything that sucks about life and make it worse. Rather than address the underlying problems, law enforcement appears content to throw a spreadsheet over it and divert resources towards subjecting certain people to a lifetime of harassment. Then, when things inevitably get worse, they can ask for more money to buy more “smart” policing tech garbage that ensures this hideous, regressive loop remains unbroken.

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Comments on “Australian Cops Are Pre-Criming Students Too, Setting Minors Up For A Lifetime Of Harassment”

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22 Comments
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

If this software is so great, put it to better use.

Let’s assume for the moment that this program is as good as they say. That means there is knowledge that these are troubled youths far in advance of actual criminal acts being committed. How about we use this information to get them some actual guidance and assistance, and steer them away from crime? The output from this program doesn’t belong in the hands of the police, it belongs in the hands of parents, schools and social workers.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: If this software is so great, put it to better use.

Unlike Florida, this case appears to rely on … charges being brought? convictions? Something like that. And as noted in the post, that conviction rate already brings the person on the police radar, even without the "predictive" program.

So do without the program.

OTOH, guidance? assistance? From police paid from taxing people already below median income? Where is the money for that going to come from?

A cynic might even add, "and how may police will be turfed out due to lower crime rates?"

Anonymous Coward says:

  • parents are never informed when cops decide their kids are criminals-in-development. It also possibly means schools aren’t aware the data they’re feeding the police is being used this way. *

So, entirely not about intervention or deterrence, and completely about having reasons to blacklist people from society and mark them for "extra attention".

That One Guy (profile) says:

'Looks like they're short a few dozen, need to fix that...'

“We can run that tool now and it will tell us – like the kid might be 15 – it tells how many crimes he is going to commit before he is 21 based on that, and it is a 95% accuracy,” one senior officer told [researchers]. “It has been tested.”

… and if a kid doesn’t seem to be committing enough crimes, why that’s just evidence that the police need to look even closer, because much like the police the tools they use are Never Wrong!

I’m not sure which is more worrisome, that they’ve bought into their own bullshit or that they know it’s garbage and are pushing it anyway because it gives them an excuse to hassle people, though in either case it really needs to be taken away from them.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

AJ Levin says:

Key pre-crime indicator is inherited money.

You’re rabbiting off as usual on yet another diversion from the really big criminals.

From around age eleven, I knew that The Rich have rigged the system with favorable "laws" from easily and cheap bought politicians, besides that they’re practically immune to prosecution behind lawyers.

Oh, not YOU. — Have to be at least Masnick level to be trained / indoctrinated in crime as a way of life, to fawn on The Rich as innately superior. Masnick specialized in "economics", the course which The Rich pay for entire "schools" excusing personal crimes and those of their corporations, including the Military Industrial Complex which extends to war crimes.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Key pre-crime indicator is inherited money.

And by the same number of degrees of separation in that "logic" because you excrete harmful waste products. These are responsible for millions of deaths throughout history from cholera and sepsis therefore you are responsible for killing millions both before and after your birth!

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Alister says:

Cops aren't really connected with schools here

Cops aren’t really connected in with the school system in Australia. There’s no police in schools program here. When the Victorian opposition suggested cops in schools, it did not go down well. Normal school disciplinary actions aren’t reported to the cops unless the matter is criminal (and even then, like the policy notes, this would be for serious matters). So I don’t think that this would be for in-school discipline ‘offences’.

For added information, Dandenong is where the lies about "African crime gangs" were spread by cynical politicians to try to win votes. It was bullshit then, and it’s bullshit now. The hysteria about it likely cost the race-baiters votes, contributing to their loss in the most recent Victorian election.

Anonymous Coward says:

It also possibly means schools aren’t aware the data they’re feeding the police is being used this way.

"Oh no, surely the police wouldn’t be using our student’s data for criminal investigations. They’re probably just using it to determine the optimal location for their annual bake sale… or something," explains the Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Plausible Denial of Reality.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

"unless the matter is criminal"

Normal school disciplinary actions aren’t reported to the cops unless the matter is criminal

If the widespread application of criminality is in Australia as it is in the US (and yes, it seems your institutions aspire to all the States’ worst qualities), I’m inclined to think that means law enforcement is called on kids at least one hell-of-a-lot. Maybe two.

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