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.



Comments (4)

  1. Camille Armendariz


    I think that this system is using dominant information to try and predict the future. They are not attempting to control people nor are they making any arrests until the crime is actually committed; instead they are keeping an eye on people who have had a criminal past. Although that it is argued that this has a racial bias and prejudice, they are merely observing the past data on the crimes committed by people. This is only dominant information, not racism.

  2. Henry


    I think that what the CPD is implementing is a good use of metrics and dominant information to complete their task. Of course how they apply and use the metrics they gather is what will see if this program ends up paying off. I think however there is a larger issue of control that these programs do not acknowledge: the drug war. Chicago is home the most murders in the US while also boasting one of the strictest sets of gun laws as well as high-budgeted police forces. I think the answer to CPD’s problems does not lie in the adoption of another program or policy but the retraction of one.

  3. Rizwan Assainar


    This program is depending on the data analysis. Analyses digs into the information about the sources and involvement. But, has to see how the implementation is done. If properly implemented, this program can yield results without lot of control and regulations

  4. Teja Reddy


    According to me this program can get good results and positive support since it is based on data, this also make police proactive and also the people in heat list to stop what they are going to do or just warn them. By this CPD can reduce crimes, if this proves to be working out fine then it can be used on large scale.

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