HolidayBuyer's Guide

Can statistics predict who'll attempt murder?

In an echo of the science fiction movie Minority Report, a University of Pennsylvania criminologist has devised a statistical model to help determine when a murderer might strike.

Macabre model

Richard Berk studied data from the Philadelphia probation department to come up with 40 or so variables that can be analyzed to come up with a score predicting future criminal behavior, he told The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Berk and his fellow researchers are planning a clinical trial in the spring, allowing the Probation Department to analyze its caseload and "target our resources to the most dangerous people," officials told the paper.

Blog community response:

"Berk points out that childhood exposure to violence has already floated to the top as the single most likely predictor of murder. Another, less well-known, but equally accurate predictor: jailhouse tattoo across an inmate's chest that reads 'Die, ___, Die.'"

"And if your life being reduced to a series of mathematical variables wasn't enough, Berk says that nine out of ten false positives 'may be something we choose to live with.' Whee!"
--Philadelphia Will Do

"That chill you're feeling isn't paranoia."
--Maszman Speaks!