In the movie Minority Report (2002), while Pre-Crime was in operation, there were nearly zero murders.

Then, after the flaws of the system were uncovered, they had to shut it down.

I understand why they could no longer "halo" people (which was questionable even from the start) and all that, but why couldn't they just continue to prevent the murders?

They could still keep Pre-Crime active, and dispatch the teams to prevent the murders, but without actually punishing the would-be murderers.

They could save thousands of lives this way. And it would still prevent a lot of potential murderers from even trying.

The society portrayed in the film doesn't exactly seem like an epitome of human rights. And even if it was, does the police have to be sure before they go and prevent a murder? In the real world, a "reason to believe" is enough to go out and protect the victim. (Sentencing someone for attempted murder is another story, and requires proof.)

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    The short story is very different, by the way.
    – Molag Bal
    May 25 '16 at 4:04
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    I think another issue besides what is in Praxis' answer is that prevention alone requires the loss of liberty for the public. For example, preventing a murder could require Pre-Crime to break into someone's home or do other things that would normally be illegal or violate someone's rights outside of the justice system. If the basis of Pre-Crime is faulty, then how would you justify giving the agents of Pre-Crime the freedom to do such things as detain persons, search private property, trespass, etc.?
    – nanoguy
    May 25 '16 at 14:48
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    @nanoguy It's a good point, but: Pre-Crime was right so often that it prevented nearly all murders. In the real world, if the police has strong indications that someone is planning a murder, I think they can get a search warrant or detain them for questioning. I remember that with Pre-Crime there were these judges connected who gave some sort of warrant. They could do something like that, just to protect the victim. Remember that this is a society where the government can take control of your car remotely and send robots into your house to scan your eyeballs.
    – Fiksdal
    May 25 '16 at 15:09
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    Because the way they did it makes for a more satisfying ending to the movie, of course. May 25 '16 at 18:40
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    @Fiksdal: Perhaps a gentler society would have a counselor as well as a SWAT team. "We've detected that you're going to commit a murder, so we're calling you in for some mandatory discussion and therapy sessions."
    – Aesin
    May 25 '16 at 19:43

There are several intertwined issues here.

Human rights of the Pre-Cogs

The Pre-Crime system depends in a crucial way on the constant participation of the Pre-Cogs, held in a (not necessarily pleasant) state that maximizes their perceptive abilities. While the film does not emphasize directly the issue of their rights, by the end it is clear that they are individuals who value an ordinary life and privacy.

Pre-Crime is not always right

The ending of the film proves that Pre-Crime cannot always predict an outcome correctly. Anderton explains that if Burgess kills him, then the Pre-Crime prediction will be vindicated. If he decides not to kill Anderton, then Pre-Crime will be shown to be faulty. This shows us the inherent flaw of Pre-Crime: when the future is made known to people, they have the power to change it. Indeed, Burgess shoots himself.

Although halo-ing is part of the problem, it is not the main problem. The problem is that Pre-Crime cannot always predict the future with certainty. You can argue that they can take steps to investigate a Pre-Crime report without halo-ing, but any punishment taken will result in a loss of rights for a possibly innocent person — unless of course no punishment is enforced at all and all that is sought is prevention. This requires a complete rethink of what it means to achieve justice.

But we still have the first issue. Even if prevention is enough, the system itself requires the loss of liberty — essentially enslavement and constant sensory deprivation — for the Pre-Cogs, who have expressed a preference for a solitary but normal life by the film's conclusion.

Its founder is a murderer!

You might argue that this is a society that did not care about Pre-Cog rights before, so why would they care now? Clearly something has changed in the public's mind, as there are no demands from the public to reinstate the Pre-Cogs and continue the program.

We can't rule out the influence of bad press. The fact that Pre-Crime's founder, Lamar Burgess, turned out to be a murderer himself is the kind of scandal that could certainly destroy the public's confidence in Pre-Crime, at least for a few years.

Television continuation

Apparently this (bad press / poor public opinion) is precisely the reason why the Pre-Cog-based Pre-Crime program was abandoned, according to the television continuation, in which a computerized version of Pre-Crime is created. The series also focuses on the human rights of the Pre-Cogs. (Thanks to Izkata and T.J.L. for pointing this out.)


I want to add a little bit to a part of the answer given by Praxis, the part about the human rights of the Pre-Cogs.

SJuan76 made an excellent comment on that answer (emphasis mine):

for the issue of precog human rights, one POV could be that before the events of the movie the situation of the precogs is not publicly known. They are talked about, but their depiction (eg. a statue in a public park) does show them as normal people, not as people forced to live in a coma while "pre-living" the drama of the crimes they predict. After the events of the film, that situation can be known, or even the girl can just plainly refuse to get back in

I just re-watched the movie, and I found that SJuan76's theory is indeed true. At 1:23, when John Anderton is outside the Pre-Crime division, we overhear a guide talking to a group of visiting students. He says (emphasis mine):

Well, the Pre-Cogs have such a powerful gift that they have to be kept in peaceful seclusion so as not to be distracted from the outside world. But this display is to give you some idea of what their daily life is like. The Pre-Cogs get over eight million pieces of mail every year, more mail than Santa Claus gets. Each Pre-Cog has their own bedroom, television and weight room. It really is wonderful to be a Pre-Cog.

From this it's apparent that the public was being lied to about the actual situation of the Pre-Cogs (Trapped in a pool and drugged, slaves to a system without much choice in the matter.) It's also likely that the public was not told that the Pre-Cogs were the children of drug addicts, and that their vulnerable situation was taken advantage of. Agatha said:

I'm tired, I'm tired of the future.

Given all the scandals at the end of the movie, the truth about the Pre-Cog's conditions was probably revealed, and the fact that the system depended on drugged down slaves to function was probably a major cause of it not being allowed to continue. This is corroborated by the fact that there was an attempt to give the Pre-Cogs a normal life again at the end of the movie.

I think all the other reasons in Praxis' answer also make a lot of sense. When you add all of them together, it's easy to see why Pre-Crime was shut down.

I'm aware of the theory that the whole ending was halo-induced, but I just find that depressing, so I don't want to believe that :)


According to pyrrhic defeat theory, law enforcement must ensure that they do not eliminate crime so that they can justify their own existence. Fighting pre-crime worked because they took very visible and public action in response to a crime they assured you was committed in an alternate future. However, preventing pre-crime would be much less visible and cause people to question the value of having such a large police force.

Moreover, the civil charter in most jurisdictions only grants the police authority to punish crime. Despite the common motto "protect and serve", police are under no obligation to prevent crime or even protect citizens from immediate harm. From a jurisprudence perspective, criminal law evolved as a way to regulate simple vengeance and limit executive power. Even in modern times, it has never been significantly extended with the concept of preventing crime, rehabilitating criminals, or compensating victims.

Even today, once all the offenders involved in a crime have been convicted and sentenced, the case is considered closed. There is no further action taken to prevent similar crimes in the future. In fact, there is not even any consideration given to whether the punishment imposed is going to make future crimes less likely, despite overwhelming evidence that mass incarceration does not reduce crime rates.

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    This seems to be a flawed argument, in that it is supported by details of the US justice/policing system in a way that portrays them as inherent to the concept of police forces, and yet there are real-world police/justice systems in other countries that involve (e.g.) crime reduction, rehabilitation, and a mandate to prevent crime — and which have not ceased to exist as a result. May 26 '16 at 2:47
  • Why would Pre-Crime without arrests be less visible? It would be pretty much the same, except for the halo at the end. And there might be more to do for the police, because some people might try to kill again after being released.
    – Fiksdal
    May 26 '16 at 8:16
  • @SevenSidedDie my answer was based primarily on US culture, however, even globally vengeance is far more ubiquitous than crime prevention. May 26 '16 at 13:56
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    @Fiksdal when people are "disappeared" (via halo or some other means), society takes notice. on the other hand, if the cops happen to be parked out front of a woman's house for a few minutes while her angry drunken ex-husband stumbles past, no one will notice. except of course the ex-husband who decides not to go on a rampage and instead reflects on where his choices are leading him. May 26 '16 at 14:00
  • @jamesturner Good point.
    – Fiksdal
    May 26 '16 at 14:23

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