Predictive Policing – A Closer Look at Looking Closely with i2 Software

According to a recent report to the Brattleboro Selectboard, the Brattleboro Police are using i2 software to help predict and prevent crimes. While the police and the board may know what the software is capable of, the public hasn’t been given much information about how it is used, or what it is capable of doing.

The first thing to know about i2 is that it is a suite of software packages that can be tailored to specific uses in law enforcement, banking, defense, health care, insurance, and even retail. IBM sells custom packages and add-on functionality so users can purchase and use the tools most suited to their purposes. 

Police departments with limited budgets are being targeted as potential customers for law enforcement systems with assurances of increasing efficiency and effectiveness.

What does IBM sell to a police department? The i2 Intelligent Law Enforcement system, and add-on modules to extend usefulness. In their memo to the Brattleboro Selectboard, the Brattleboro Police said they use i2, but did not list the add-ons being used or contemplated, if any.

i2 Intelligent Law Enforcement is a security analytics software package for law enforcement agencies to analyze huge volumes of data and look for patterns.  IBM says i2 will “help identify, investigate, predict, prevent, and disrupt criminal, terrorist, and fraudulent activities”.

Some of the features of the software are designed to help a department better allocate resources and share internal information quickly and easily. A report entered by an officer at one end of town, for example, would be available to a detective at a desk in the office. It is much more powerful, however, when multiple sources of data are combined.

Overall, the software is billed as “preventive, predictive approaches to policing” that allow for collaboration and sharing of data with other agencies and communities. i2 allows for storing, sorting, and analyzing of any data fed into the system.

What data? It depends. Each operator can add their own data to their repository. One video demo says that records such as incident reports, fire reports, and hospital check-ins are some of the common data being used, but any available data (license plate scans, state and federal records, social media, YouTube, 311 data, parole releases, firearm records, pay days, weather, etc.) can be added. As IBM’s sales brochure says, Modern law enforcement agencies have access to a flood of data. “

By using another similar database system, IBM’s i2 COPLINK, officers can access policing data from their vehicles and other mobile devices. Mug shot sheets can be generated in a patrol car. Optional COPLINK add-ons include facial recognition from a “suspect list of millions of stored faces,” a way for third party systems to connect and query the system, incident analyzers, and a visualizer to view links among entities and “understand relationships and deeply hidden connections in data,” such as “time progressions, cause and effect connections, link charts, social network analyses and more.”

One sales video says that i2 can reveal “hidden details” such as names, places, photographs, videos, phone numbers, events, dates, times, account numbers, license plates, aliases, descriptions, and the curiously titled “and what else?” 

Here’s a video about COPLINK that shows off some of the program’s features.

Here’s the IBM i2 Intelligent Law Enforcement Demo video. 

The videos are promotional and do not address potential issues with privacy, warrants, or errors. They do, however, show that local police are feeding into and extracting data from numerous sources to identify people and connections between people in the community and potentially around the world.

IBM bought i2 in 2011. The Cambridge, UK-based company was originally founded in 1990 and had its US headquarters in McLean, Virginia.

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