Last year, the Chicago Police Department sent one of its officers to the home of a Robert McDaniel to deliver a stern message: If you commit any crimes, there will be major consequences. We’re watching you.
The CPD, using predictive analytics, had determined McDaniel to be part of what they call the “heat list”, a collection of people the city of Chicago have determined to be most likely to be involved in violent crime. McDaniel, however, has no record of violent crimes, or any gun violations. Rather, his social network and the neighborhood he lived in have earned him a spot on the list. Statistical analysis had determined he was “at increased risk” for criminal activity, much in the way a doctor would determine someone who smokes to be increasingly at risk of developing lung cancer.
Most of the data from the program comes from arrest and conviction records, the CPD notes, which they say makes the analysis unbiased and quantitative. Because of this, Commander Jonathan Lewin, who’s in charge of information technology for the CPD, believes “This [program] will become a national best practice. 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.”
By basing its analysis on data – arrest and conviction records – that, for decades, have been thought to have been tainted by racial bias, the program itself runs the risk of exhibiting racial bias.