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UK police predict gang crime before it strikes, Minority Report-style

Police in London have tested a new type of software believed to be able to identify violent crimes before they happen using big data.

Using five years' worth of historical data, the software, owned by consultancy company Accenture, merged together information from existing databases and systems the Met had already in use. It then carried out predictive calculations on how likely certain individuals are to commit violent crime.

"What it does is tell you who are the highest risk individuals that you should target your limited resources against," said Muz Janoowalla, head of public safety analytics at Accenture, according to the BBC.

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"For example if an individual had posted inflammatory material on the internet - one gang might say something about another gang member's partner or something like that - it would be recorded in the Met's intelligence system."

Accenture then used its software to mine both that intelligence and any known criminal history of the gang in order to create a risk assessment model.

The software was trialled by London's police forces over a 20-week period and has already drawn flak from privacy groups and civil liberty campaigners. Campaign group Big Brother Watch has called for more information on the scheme to be made available to the public.

See more: The big data boom: what, why and where?

"The Metropolitan Police must ensure that they are fully transparent about how they intend implement this technology and what type of information will be used in the process," said Daniel Nesbitt, research director at Big Brother Watch.

"Big data solutions such as this can run the risk of unfairly targeting certain groups of people and potentially making them feel stigmatised as a result."

This is not the first police force that Accenture has worked with. In Spain the company tried to identify locations where crime was most likely to occur and in Singapore tested software that monitors video footage of heavy crowds.