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.

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: abuse, australia, harassment, police, pre-crime, software


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Dec 2020 @ 1:57pm

    I wonder where they got the idea from? Any guesses, anyone?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Dec 2020 @ 1:58pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Dec 2020 @ 3:34pm

      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?"

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2020 @ 9:11am

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

      it belongs in the hands of parents, schools and social workers.

      In the US it would belong in the hands of executioners. Err.... I mean Judge Dread...... Er.... Police officers playing solder...... Er..... "Protectors of the public."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Dec 2020 @ 2:27pm

    • 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".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 2 Dec 2020 @ 2:37pm

    '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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Dec 2020 @ 4:53pm

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

      ... 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 Going Dark! They're Going Dark! We need moar surveillance, stat!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    AJ Levin, 2 Dec 2020 @ 2:44pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Dec 2020 @ 4:55pm

      Re: Key pre-crime indicator is inherited money.

      Wealthy people have ridiculous privilege... no kidding.

      Everything else... you're fooken high again.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2020 @ 7:46am

      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!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Alister, 2 Dec 2020 @ 3:39pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Dec 2020 @ 3:45pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 2 Dec 2020 @ 7:02pm

    "It has been tested."

    Do the rest of us plebians get to see the context of these tests?

    Considering dowsing rods have been sold to militaries to detect spies and landmines, I'm highly skeptical.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Dec 2020 @ 7:14pm

    I was under the impression that the sure fire way to tell if someone is a criminal in Australia is if they obey the law of math over the law of Australia?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 3 Dec 2020 @ 12:50am

    "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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Alister (profile), 3 Dec 2020 @ 1:51pm

      Re: "unless the matter is criminal"

      No. As I noted above, law enforcement is not called on Australian kids in schools as a routine matter. Even the race-baiting tabloid the Herald-Scum running a beat-up campaign managed to fail, with a 2015 story noting an average of 240 police attendances per year. Victoria has 2,500 schools.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    gordo1 (profile), 3 Dec 2020 @ 2:14am

    Pre-criming students

    Any other country in the world would be hauled before the UN for human rights abuse.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Advertisment

Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Discord

The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...

Loading...
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.