Victoria police refuses to reveal how many young people tracked using secretive data tool | Australian police and policing


Victorian police say a secretive data tool that tracked youths and predicted the risk they would commit crime is not being widely used, amid fears it leads to young people from culturally diverse backgrounds being disproportionately targeted.

The tool, which had been used in Dandenong and surrounding suburbs, was only revealed in interviews with police officers published earlier this year.

Between 2016 and 2018, police categorised young people as “youth network offenders” or “core youth network offenders”.

According to a research paper published by Monash University associate professor Leanne Weber, about 40 to 60 young people in the Dandenong region were classified as core youth network offenders.

To be classified that way, a 10 to 14-year-old had to be charged with at least 20 offences, a 15 to 17-year-old charged with 30 or more offences, or an 18 to 22-year-old charged with more than 60 offences.

About 240 youths had been classified as youth network offenders.

Once a young person was classified, police felt they could better predict the behaviour of that offender, and treat them accordingly, Weber found.

“We can run that tool now and it will tell us – like the kid might be 15 – it tells how many crimes he is going to commit before he is 21 based on that, and it is a 95% accuracy,” one senior officer told Weber. “It has been tested.”

A Victoria police spokesman told Guardian Australia the force could not comment on its broader use of data, how many young people were tracked using the program, the oversights in place for the program, or whether it was still in use. Even the name of the program has never been released.

Further details about the tool could not be released because of “methodological sensitivities”.

“Victoria police has a number of policies and procedures in place surrounding the collection of data, ensuring all relevant legislation is adhered to and human rights of those involved are protected,” he said.

He confirmed that the terms “youth network offender” and “core network offender” were only used in one police division. The division which includes Dandenong also includes the suburbs of Springvale, Narre Warren and Pakenham.

The region is among the most diverse and disadvantaged in Australia.

In Dandenong, 67% of households spoke a language other than English at home, more than three times the national average, according to the 2016 census. Almost 80% of all residents had parents who were both born overseas, more than double the national average.

The weekly household income was $412 less than the Australian median, and the unemployment rate of 13% was almost double the national figure.

Youths of Pacific Islander and Sudanese descent told Weber that police around Dandenong stopped them frequently without apparent reason, in a process which she suspects was designed to gather intelligence that could be fed back into the data tool. None of the youths was confirmed as having been classified under the system.

The research was completed during a period when Victoria’s handling of crime became a national issue, fuelled by unfounded fears of roaming “African gangs” in the lead-up to the state election in November 2018.

But Anthony Kelly, the chief executive of the Flemington-Kensington Legal Centre, said he was concerned Victoria police might still be using data-driven policing, and had also done so before the period covered by the research.

In a discussion paper produced by the centre which is yet to be released, at least five other police taskforces or operations are identified which appear to have used data in some way to monitor suspects, based on the public statements of police.

In jurisdictions from New South Wales to Los Angeles, the use of data in policing is increasingly being seen as problematic.

Earlier this year, it was revealed police in NSW had for two decades maintained a blacklist that was disproportionately made up of Indigenous children deemed at risk of committing crimes, who were targeted using tactics that were likely to be illegal.

Many of the children – including some as young as nine – had not been charged with a crime and in some cases came to the attention of police because they were deemed at risk of domestic abuse, according to an investigation by the state’s police watchdog into the Suspect Target Management Plan (STMP).

Police in Los Angeles, Chicago and New Orleans have reportedly scrapped programs based on data collection because of concerns it disproportionately targeted minorities.



Source link

Leave a Comment