Friday, December 05, 2008

Is criminal profiling discriminatory?

Remember in some of those crime thriller movies, the chief detective will be instructing the team that they are looking for a "single white male, lives in the outskirts of this city, probably a loner and unlikely to subscribe to any religion"?

That's sorta like offender or criminal profiling.

It's not so much like generalising and stereotyping - oh, a shrewd businessman? Must be jewish!.
It's supposedly more art than science, well, that's what malcom gladwell says. and he wrote 3 great books. blink, tipping point and outliers. non of which i read.

This post was triggered by what I had observed at the mrt station near my house. Boon Keng MRT. I have been asked to submit my bag for security checks once. And the two other times I saw the security guy checking anyone else's bags were those belonging to a primary school boy and today, a middle aged auntie.

Question. I did not include their race. I'm Chinese. Whatever that means in Singapore anyway. So were the boy and the auntie. Will it bother you if all the examples I have just given were malays? Indians? People who are wearing hijabs/tudungs? Only angmohs. Only people with hairy legs. Blondes?

This may sound a little racist. But, are the checks targeted? Or random, very much so, to be politically correct.

Let's face it. Were any of the JIs elements caught in Singapore post 9-11 angmohs?

Who is more likely to have terror intent in your neighbourhood? Is your answer going to be politcally correct ie. "We cannot be complacent. While we wish to trust all your neighbours, we are unable to know them thoroughly. They may have undergone self-radicalisation by visiting websites with radical views that distort the original religious teachings. So we must assume anyone can possibly harbour terror intent in my neighbourhood."


Or are you going to be suspicious of the newly moved in neighbours who look like they are from the middle east, keep to themselves mostly and don't speak English?

But what does criminal profiling tells us? (refer to malcom gladwell's comments on profiling - make lots of predictions, not a triumph of forensic analysis - a party trick) So who should the security guy at the station check?

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