AI Can Help Cops Solve Crime

Artificial Intelligence has applications in pretty much any field you can think of, from those cool assistants on your phone, to social media, the medical field, and even crime fighting.

Movies and procedural cop shows have plenty of smart tools at hand, some that may very well never actually come to life, but so do actual cops. In Europe, for instance, there's VALCRI, which stands for Visual Analytics for Sense-Making in Criminal Intelligence Analysis. Funded by the European Union, the system can scan millions of police records, pictures, videos, interviews, and any other types of evidence. The AI then identifies patterns and can make connections that could be relevant to the investigation.

If you've ever watched Criminal Minds, for instance, you know how the techy agent immediately finds a pattern and figures out they have a serial criminal on the loose. Well, that's what VALCRI can do, but in the real world. Well, that and so much more.

In fact, VALCRI can go a step further and reconstruct situations, generate insights and even discover leads. It can certainly make the life of police officers a lot easier because they don't have to sift through piles of data on their own. In fact, that's what can be said about Artificial Intelligence as a whole as one of the things it is very good at is going through huge amounts of data in a short time. Take the AI that is looking at Kepler's data and has already discovered two new exoplanets, for instance. It would take many years for humans to analyze all the data, especially since information keeps on coming.

The AI future

For its part, VALCRI can analyze data from a wide range of sources, even in mixed formats, before displaying the findings with visualizations, presenting plausible explanations of crimes, and more. Unlike humans, VALCRI is objective, so there should be no bias in its work.

"VALCRI fulfills what Jerry Ratcliffe, a leading professor of criminal justice, predicted as the future of intelligence-led policing. He suggested that crime intelligence would take the investigative, evidence-gathering processes of criminal intelligence and integrate them with the systematic, behavioural evaluations of crime analysis. As a result, crime intelligence would be able to both pre-empt crime and support the investigation of individual cases," reads the program's presentation page.

The system isn't one that works autonomously; in fact, it only works when officers input the needed data and put it to work. It's a clerk in a way, and a top level analyst in another. What matters in the end, however, is that it can be a valuable tool for European law enforcement agencies. It will take time, of course, before implementation is widespread and we'll see it being used more. There's even the question of whether or not we'll know a case was solved with the help of VALCRI in the first place.

Until then, however, it should be reassuring to citizens that officers have such a tool on their hands, and unsettling for criminals. The future certainly holds a lot of usage of artificial intelligence and this one is just a great example of the good AI can do.

On the other hand, those that have seen Minority Report, might be afraid that is the future we are heading for - where the system simply predicts if someone will do a crime and have the cops arrest them before anything even happens. While there's nothing to say that couldn't happen sometime in the very distant future, for now, that's simply fiction.