This article traces the rise of “predictive” attitudes to crime prevention. After a brief summary of the current spread of predictive policing based on person-centered and place-centered mathematical models, an episode in the scientific study of future crime is examined. At UCLA between 1969 and 1973, a well-funded “violence center” occasioned great hopes that the quotient of human “dangerousness”—potential violence against other humans—could be quantified and thereby controlled. At the core of the center, under the direction of interrogation expert and psychiatrist Louis Jolyon West, was a project to gather unprecedented amounts of behavioral data and centrally store it to identify emergent crime. Protesters correctly seized on the violence center as a potential site of racially targeted experimentation in psychosurgery and an example of iatrogenic science. Yet the eventual spectacular failure of the center belies an ultimate success: its data-driven vision itself predicted the Philip K. Dick–style PreCrime policing now emerging. The UCLA violence center thus offers an alternative genealogy to predictive policing. This essay is part of a special issue entitled Histories of Data and the Database edited by Soraya de Chadarevian and Theodore M. Porter.
Skip Nav Destination
Research Article| November 01 2018
An Episode in the History of PreCrime
Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences (2018) 48 (5): 637–647.
- Views Icon Views
- Share Icon Share
- Search Site
Rebecca Lemov; An Episode in the History of PreCrime. Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 1 November 2018; 48 (5): 637–647. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/hsns.2018.48.5.637
Download citation file: