Understanding Predictive Profiling

Following the terror attacks in New York, New Jersey, and Minnesota, Donald Trump appeared to suggest that law enforcement agencies should consider utilizing religious and ethnic profiling as a means of preventing future attacks.

Israel has success in identifying potential terrorist

Our local police, they know a lot of who these people are. They are afraid to do anything about it because they don’t want to be accused of profiling, they don’t want to be accused of all sorts of things. You know, in Israel, they profile. They’ve done an unbelievable job, as good as you can do. — Donald Trump
If Mr. Trump is calling for ‘blanket’ profiling of religious and ethnic groups that is unlikely to be acceptable to a majority of the American people. The concept of allowing religious freedom and prohibiting stereotyping based solely on race are solidly ingrained in the American psyche as negatives.

Predictive profiling instead of blanket profiling

According to the Jewish Journal, Mr. Trump has a misunderstanding of how Israel identifies individuals as potential threats. According to Steve Pomerantz, a counterterrorism expert at the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, what Israel does is look for individual behavioral patterns within broader groups to identify potential threats. The term most often used is “predictive profiling.”
If I was looking at gathering intelligence on the threat of terrorism, would I be looking at that community [Muslins] more than others? You bet. But treating an individual based solely on their ethnicity is another issue altogether. — Steve Pomerantz

Looking for a crime before it happens

The challenge for law enforcement in dealing with terrorism is that they are looking for someone who is going to commit a crime that hasn’t yet happened. While the U.S. experiences terrorism from persons who have no religious or ethnic affiliation, the reality is that an increasing number of high-profile events involve individuals who are Muslims or who are sympathetic to the cause of radical Islam.
Other countries do it, you look at Israel and you look at others, they do it and they do it successfully. And I hate the concept of profiling, but we have to start using common sense and we have to use our heads. — Donald Trump

Common sense approach

Indeed, it does make ‘common sense’ to many Americans to look for radical Islamists in places where they gather or share common interests, but only after an individual has been identified based on their personal actions. Predictive profiling does not target an entire group of people based on their religion or ethnic background, rather it looks for individual behavioral patterns to identify those to ‘profile,’ wherever they might be.

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