Artificial intelligence could identify gang crimes—and ignite an ethical firestorm

By Matthew Hutson |
Feb. 28, 2018 , 8:00 AM

When someone roughs up a pedestrian, robs a store, or ki*ls in cold blood, police want to know whether the perpetrator was a gang member: Do they need to send in a special enforcement team? Should they expect a crime in retaliation? Now, a new algorithm is trying to automate the process of identifying gang crimes. But some scientists warn that far from reducing gang violence, the program could do the opposite by eroding trust in communities, or it could brand innocent people as gang members.

That has created some tensions. At a presentation of the new program this month, one audience member grew so upset he stormed out of the talk, and some of the creators of the program have been tight-lipped about how it could be used.

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