Drones and AI for Crime Control

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 Drones and Artificial Intelligence (AI) will undoubtedly figure into crime prevention and crime control. Drones and AI are the up and coming new technology that government officials have put into use for military tactics, and are even beginning to be implemented into police department tactical use for domestic security. As technology advances, so does the nature of crime prevention. It has been predicted for several years now that technology will advance beyond our imagination. You can see examples of this over the years in dramatized Hollywood media sources. From television series, to movies about robots and other forms of technology that help to police the streets. Viewers see these media forms and begin to imagine a world similar to those depictions. Drones are currently being implemented into today’s police and military tactics. Machine learning as a precursor to full AI is also important to this. The uses of this technology, the progressive and the adverse effects should be discussed. There are numerous uses for this technology that are very positive and can change the amount of crime we see on a daily basis. However, there are also some downsides to incorporating this Artificial Intelligence into police department use and military use. This paper describes the theoretical application of new technological advances into todays’ society and the use of these technologies in the Criminal Justice field of study. We will draw upon studies conducted by the Stanford University Aerospace Robotics Laboratory on the use of drones by the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) unit, and other research on AI and drone use.

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Before the police department even thought about implementing drones as a part of their arsenal, the military was the first to adopt them into their tactical advances. The goal was to limit the amount of soldier interaction with the enemy overseas, to limit the amount of lives lost. The robots or drones are capable of surveillance and can even be equipped with lethal and non-lethal weapons. These autonomous drones and robots can survey the area and search for threats. They can find land mines and Improvised Explosive Devices (IED), before soldiers run across them. These robots can also shoot, deploy tear gas, and launch small missiles. Drones have a more accurate shot than a human might and is more precise. There is less room for mass human error; in the fact that one person is behind the controls directing it, as opposed to multiple soldiers. This would also save the military money, since less shots are being fired based on drones shooting accuracy being more precise. Drones also are not prone to sickness, fatigue, hunger, etc. They do not need these things to keep going, as opposed to soldiers who need food and rest before they can carry out their next mission.

Drones can be shot down by the enemy, however, there is a surplus of them, and no human life was lost. These drones theoretically can think more rationally than humans without the element of emotion. They can work directly from orders of the operator and not employ their own opinion or emotion into the situation, however, the operator behind the drone can still employ their human emotions and rationale. Drones can survey the area, looking for the target and eliminating them. It can also be helpful when sending in troops, so they have an understanding of the area and the details in which surround it. This helps with the accuracy of a mission and projects a better outcome and success rate. The future goal is to be able to deploy 150 troops to 2000 robots/ drones (Joh 2016).

This would save money on weapons and the cost of deployment of troops, and also prevent loss of lives of soldiers who could have been killed or injured during deployment. If drones are deployed, terrorist threats can be eliminated faster. However, there are many downsides to these drones, to include: algorithmic errors, malfunctions in the technology, hacking, etc. We will get more into this later on. These technologies have all been employed for the use of the military and now to fight the war on crime; they are also being used on the home front, through what some would call police militarization. This notion stemmed from the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The Department of Homeland Security was created shortly after the events. Their sole purpose is the protection of the United States from both foreign and domestic threats through the fight of the war on terrorism. Through this, terrorism and domestic security became intertwined. The assumption is that police must become militarized, in order to be prepared for any threat of domestic terrorism. The militarization of state and local law enforcement disrupts the apt historical division between law enforcement and military activities in the U.S. and accordingly threatens to transform police departments (Jeffries 64). This order is rooted in the boomerang effect, whereby control technologies deployed abroad in colonial and military campaigns boomerang back to the metropole to be deployed against the homefront populations (Graham, 2010; Focault, 1997; McCoy, 2009).

Police departments all over the country have been given grants to incorporate these technologies into everyday use. This could been seen as another form of police militarization, due to the abilities of these drones. Drones employed by the police would have some of the same capabilities as drones deployed by the military. They can be equipped with tear gas, surveillance, and lethal weapons. Police departments can use the surveillance factor of drones to survey the streets and search for illicit activity, to survey an area before a team is sent in, or to provide surveillance during riots. As well as with the military, it can prevent the unnecessary deployment of officers into a hostile situation where there is a possibility that they could be killed or injured. All of these things are the capabilities of these technology and drones we have now. Once they are more advanced, the range of capabilities of the technologies will be expanded. We constantly see in the media today of racial bias and disparity in policing. If robots have the capability to detain criminals without lethal force, innocent lives on both ends can be saved. Non- lethal force can be used by these robots to detain criminals until the police arrive.

Just as with the military aspect of drones and such, there is still debate over the possible malfunctions of robots and drones. Since it is technological, there is a wide range of error with drones and robots. Robots policing the streets cannot rationalize like a human would and could possibly mark something as criminal that isn’t, or apprehend the wrong person. To be questioned is the rights, capabilities, limits, and regulations of these technologies. Throughout this paper we will discuss the theoretical framework of the advancement of these technologies and the creation of new AI that can change the criminal justice system. In more recent media there has been a large debate over Saudi Arabia’s announcement of their decision to give citizenship to an AI. In October of 2017, Saudi Arabia had announced the citizenship awarded to an AI called Sophia. Much like the movie The Terminator, the robot has human-like features, not much different from that of a human. She is said to be able to express emotions, however is controlled and acts upon a narrated script, therefor, the emotions are not programed into the algorithmic coding, but rather emotions conveyed through the operator. With this type of technology advancement is right around the corner.

Eventually it will be perfected and more advanced. Dubai could be considered the city of the future because of its technological advances, they have also employed patrol robots into their communities. Most police departments and military agencies are working towards the implementation of drones for the use of combat/ tactical purposes. The United States military has already started putting these into effect. This type of technology is used mostly for surveillance, but has the capability to be weaponized. Imagine if the United States had an AI like the one in Saudi Arabia, and were able to advance it to not be narrated through a script; an AI who could replace the average police officer on the street. This would completely change the face of the criminal justice system. Police officers would no longer be in the line of fire until absolutely necessary. Drones would be able to detect crime and alert officials of the matter. There would theoretically be less lives lost in the face of street crime, and criminals could be safely detained without any harm inflicted onto police lives.

However, being that these drones would not be manually operated, but rather through automatic algorithms; this could contain operating error or racism in algorithms. There are already advancements on algorithms that can anticipate crime before it happens; by using historical data to generate a projected idea of where crime will occur. There would be less room for human error, but could leave room for AI errors. It eliminates the large cost that the government and states spend on policing per year. Drones and AI are supposedly programed with no bias to things, and therefor the aspect of human emotion does not affect their decision making. Again, these drones are created by humans and controlled by humans, so they can contain and be infected by human flaws and fallacies. First, we will start by examining the technologies police departments in the United States currently have and the use of drones. The current innovations in use are: body cameras, facial recognition software, shot spotter, beware surveillance, and more. Beware surveillance was first introduced in Fresno, California, it uses around 200 police cameras spread throughout the city and can tap into around 400 more local cameras (The Young Turks 2016).

Cameras in the movie 1984 were used in social control to watch people and prevent them from doing things that broke the rules. In today’s society we also have cameras in airports, schools, stores, bus stations, and in a lot of public places to keep an eye on people, to make sure they are not doing anything immoral or illegal. This can however be seen as a violation of the fourth amendment. The fourth amendment of the constitution states that citizens have the right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause. If we have this constitutional right, then why is the government able to sift through millions of surveillance technology data a day? There is also shot spotter, which can identify when and where a shot was fired based on microphones spread throughout the city. Media sonar is also another software police use to troll social media and look for illicit activity. These technologies are already being used by police, and paired with drones, AI, Unmanned Ariel Vehicles (UAV), or other software, can create a dangerous weapon. Technologies convert information into intelligence through mediating capacities of screens databases, and networks that function by extracting bodies from their local contexts to facilitate various interventions (Haggerty and Ericson, 2000).

However noble this may seem, these new advancements can still be pressing the violations of the 4th Amendment. We now have the issue of racism in algorithms. An algorithm is a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer (Dictionary.com). Algorithms are created by humans, humans who are flawed and are susceptible to implementation of their own opinions or beliefs onto these algorithms. AI therefore can be considered to be created with some form of bias to certain things. Just as we have the Black Lives Matter movement, because of the proclaimed bias of police officers, drones can have these same effects. If programed in such a manner, anyone suspicious looking could be classified as a criminal. If police drones are equipped with weapons, innocent people could be hurt. With facial recognition software being programed into cameras; if a drone has this capability, there could be a malfunction in the system and the wrong person could be susceptible to danger. It can also be assumed through this, that anyone in range of the offender is associated with them.

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Drones and AI For Crime Control. (2020, Jun 17). Retrieved February 7, 2023 , from

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