Chicago police develop real ‘Minority Report’ computer to predict crimes

Giuseppe Macri Tech Editor
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The Chicago Police Department wants to take predicting and preventing crimes from a bold sci-fi concept to a scary law-enforcement reality.

Chicago is leading the way in funding and innovation to develop the most advanced predictive analytical system yet, which uses advanced algorithms to compile a list of individuals most likely to commit a crime.

“This [program] will become a national best practice,” CPD Commander Jonathan Lewin told The Verge. “This will inform police departments around the country and around the world on how best to utilize predictive policing to solve problems. This is about saving lives.”

The department database records phoned incidents and locations where crimes occur frequently to create maps of the city that highlight “hotspots” for criminal activity. It also keeps track of everyone arrested or convicted of a crime, and employs a formula to identify the 400 most dangerous people in the city.

Algorithms go beyond incorporating past violent behaviors to predict future criminals — they also track relationships with other violent offenders, and use a social networking theory to identify potential targets and add them to the “heat list.”

The program has grown in part from a grant of $2 million dollars from the National Institute of Justice, which handed out millions to police departments in 2009 to build crime predictive programs.

“These are persons who the model has determined are those most likely to be involved in a shooting or homicide, with probabilities that are hundreds of times that of an ordinary citizen,” NIJ representative Joan LaRocca said.

Part of the program includes sending officers to warn potential violators that they are being watched, and to stay out of trouble. Though a full report on the program won’t be published until 2016, concerns over privacy and profiling are already being raised.

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Giuseppe Macri