For Lombroso, a sloping forehead, large ears, very long arms and any one of a host of other physical characteristics pointed toward their owner’s in-born propensity for a life lived on the wrong side of the law.
If only it were that easy to spot the bad guys. Now, it takes a great deal more effort to spot both the crime and the criminal.
But big data is helping in a big way.
Publicly shared information combined with data from local authorities, social services and intelligence gathered by beat officers is helping police forces around the world spot trouble before it starts.
It’s not quite the “pre-crime” scenario featured in the 2002 science fiction film Minority Report, but it’s getting close.
Former policeman Shaun Hipgrave, now a security consultant at IBM, said: “It’s about using big data and analytics in a smarter way. You are just giving them access to information that they never used to have before.”