How Manhattan DA Vance Targets Chronic Offenders In Data-Driven Office


Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr.’s pursuit of a “money ball” approach to crime-fighting is described by the New York Times Magazine. “The question I had when I came in was, Do we sit on our hands waiting for crime to tick up, or can we do something to drive crime lower?” Vance said. “I wanted to develop what I call intelligence-driven prosecution.” One of his first hires, Chauncey Parker, had the job of dreaming up ideas, no matter how outlandish, that might reduce crime.

In 2010, Parker and Vance created the Crime Strategies Unit (CSU), which built a searchable database that now includes more than 9,000 chronic offenders, virtually all of whom have criminal records. A large percentage are recidivists who have been repeatedly convicted of grand larceny, one of the top index crimes in Manhattan, but the list also includes active gang members and a fluctuating number of violent “priority targets,” which currently stands at 81. In-house software programmers made key refinements to what is considered the nerve center of the office, the Arrest Alert System. It was the first of four programs created or tweaked by the CSU using a combination of in-house technology and commercial software. The DANY (the District Attorney of New York) InPho program analyzes recorded inmate phone calls from the Rikers Island jail. SCIM (the Surveillance Camera Interactive Map) shows the locations of and contact information for some 6,000 public and private surveillance cameras in Manhattan.

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