Chicago Will Boost Police Technology to Fight Crime

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Photo by Dave Conner via Flickr

Chicago police have made arrests in fewer than a quarter of last year’s homicides, says the University of Chicago Crime Lab. Of the more than 2,700 cases in which someone was shot but not killed, only about 5 percent have led to a suspect in custody. There are myriad ideas about how Chicago’s police can turn the tide, reports The Trace. One tool police brass plan to use increasingly is advanced technology. Overseeing the push is Deputy Chief Jonathan Lewin, who heads up computer-assisted crime fighting. An algorithm known as the Strategic Subject Model uses arrest histories and information on past shootings to generate a list of people most at risk of committing or becoming victims of violent crime, so that police officers can try to step in before shots are fired.

Its implementation has been criticized by some who urge better training for field officers and commanders and better use of intervention strategies. Lewin says those changes are already in the works, and stresses that the model’s purpose is to be proactive, not punitive. Less attention has been given to the hardware side of the tech push. This month, the department will significantly beef up a gunshot detection system called ShotSpotter in two of the city’s most dangerous districts, expanding from the three square miles cumulatively covered by the sensors to an area spanning 14 square miles. The department hopes to increase the number of surveillance cameras in those districts from 180 to 228. Information from the gunshot sensors and cameras will be matched in real time with data including 911 transcripts and arrest records to point officers more quickly toward both bullet casings and witnesses, or even to suspects themselves.

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