'Minority Report' is real: Philly is predicting who will commit murder

Remember Minority Report? Yeah, that sci-fi flick starring Tom Cruise (before he jumped on Oprah's couch) and Colin Farrell (back when people thought he was a real movie star). In the film, "precogs" sleep in a creepy pool in some basement laboratory and predict which citizens will commit murder. They communicate their predictions through a machine that spits out a mini billiards ball with the culprit's name on it. The police use those predictions to arrest citizens before the murder can take place and the "killers" are sent to jail because, science.

All caught up? Good.

Well, Philly and Baltimore (and, soon, D.C. and the rest of the country) are kind of sort of doing something similar.

Note: They're using it in Baltimore, which means this is the part when you're supposed to imagine what it would have been like if Kima and company were using this software.

Criminologists have developed fancy algorithms (that they probably wrote on their dorm room windows) that can predict—with pretty good accuracy— which parolees are most likely to commit murder.

The software parses about two dozen variables, including criminal record and geographic location. The type of crime and the age at which it was committed, however, turned out to be two of the most predictive variables.

The program was developed using data compiled from 60,000 crimes. It's creator, Richard Berk of Penn, says that it can successfully identify eight out of 100 future murders. Berk thinks it can help establish reasonable bail amounts and can reduce the murder rate.

While the software just provides guidelines, it can help law enforcement officials distribute resources more efficiently and focus on parolees that have exhibited numerous red flags. [Wired]