Trope-a-Day: Precrime Arrest

Precrime Arrest: Well, while this sort of thing is easy enough to do with behavioral analysis software and ubiquitous computing and AI monitoring and all the other appurtenances of Citizen Oversight, obviously you can’t arrest people before the crime, having a great and tremendous respect for free will and all. That would be very bad form indeed. (I mean, if they were certain to commit the crime, that would be fine: under Imperial notions of the legal causality of intent, that’s why you can arraign someone for murder even if they were stopped before proceeding, but if they haven’t committed to their mens rea yet, it’s not a crime even if it was very likely to be, and free-will choices in critical moments are awkward that way.)

But there’s ain’t no rule saying you can’t quietly park a UAV with a stunner, say, in the air over people who are very likely to be about to commit crimes just in case, or quietly take other precautionary measures. If it turns out they don’t – well, no harm, no foul. That’s not an accusation, it’s just probability-based policing.

2 thoughts on “Trope-a-Day: Precrime Arrest

  1. As far as “other precautionary measures” go, to what extent would those include directly engaging with the person of interest and applying soft power in an effort to subtly prevent / dissuade / deflect a probable future crime?

    In other words, if the local constable thinks that she has a decent shot at preventing a crime by walking up to the PoI and engaging him in a bit of friendly conversation, would she be permitted — or even, in certain circumstances, obligated — to do so?

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    • As is so often the case, it depends.

      In the case in which a kind word (and maybe a sandwich and a pointer in the right direction, etc.) may well fix the problem, leading to the PoI straightening up and flying right henceforth, absolutely. Much preferable, even if it’s more the function of the Guardians of Our Harmony, one branch of whom are paid to do this sort of thing full-time, as it were.

      On the other hand, if it’s just going to put them off committing said crime for now, say by making them aware that the constabulary is around, then no. Much better to catch them in the gap between commitment to the crime and actual performance of it, so that judicial redactors have the opportunity to fix whatever’s broken in their mind-state. Because that fixes the problem forever, not just puts it off until later.

      (Making this judgment call is often tricky, but no-one promised it’d be an easy job.)

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