Study Questions ‘Predictive Policing’ Test in Chicago

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Since 2013, Chicago has been home to one of the nation’s most controversial crime-prevention experiments: the Strategic Subjects List. Spearheaded by the Chicago Police Department in collaboration with the Illinois Institute of Technology, the project uses an algorithm to rank and identify people most likely to be perpetrators or victims of gun violence based on data points like prior narcotics arrests, gang affiliation, and age at the time of last arrest. An experiment in what is known as “predictive policing,” the algorithm initially identified 426 people whom police say they’ve targeted with preventative social services, reports

The American Civil Liberties Union has criticized the police lack of transparency about whose names are on the list and how it is being used. Now, a Rand Corp. study has found that using the list didn’t help the Chicago Police Department keep its subjects away from violent crime. Neither were they more likely to receive social services. The only noticeable difference it made was that people on the list ended up arrested more often. “The pilot effort does not appear to have been successful in reducing gun violence,” the study reads. The researchers couldn’t determine why those on the list were more frequently arrested, but the dozens of interviews conducted during the study provided a clue. “It sounded, at least in some cases, that when there was a shooting and investigators went out to understand it, they would look at list subjects in their area and start from there,” said Jessica Saunders, the lead author of the study.

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