The rampant violence in Chicago is well-documented. As the birthplace of urban gangs, neighborhoods in the Chi are battlegrounds for warring sets. So far this year, 250 people have lost their lives to gun violence in the Windy City. 1,150 have been injured by gunfire. The majority of the victims are on the Chicago PD’s Strategic Subject List. This list is compiled based on an algorithm that Chicago police are using in efforts to predict and curb gunplay.
This algorithm has been in use by Chicago police for three years. Criteria such as criminal records, gang affiliations, gunshot wounds already suffered, or the number of past arrests all are taken into account in the computer program and is used to predict who will be involved in a shooting,be it as victim or aggressor.
On one hand, the algorithm and the Strategic Subject List are seen as a benefit to the community. Based on data, police and/or social workers go on visits to subjects and present them with rehabilitation options, ways out of gangs, drug treatment and other resources. They also educate unknowing subjects of the charges they could potentially face. For instance, if a person with a criminal record is found in Chicago with a round of ammo, he/she could be federally prosecuted and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
On the other hand, there are critics of the algorithm. The Daily Mail reports:
But the exact nature of the criteria used by the predictive algorithm is secret and controversial. The program’s principal designer Miles Wernick of the Illinois Institute of Technology, did not respond when contacted by AFP.
Critics say the secretive system violates freedoms by stigmatizing people as having an “alleged propensity for violence.”
But police justify the use of the algorithm by saying it ensures they focus resources on people who are most likely to commit gun violence or be threatened by it.
“For a long time now American police forces have been using computer technology and data analysis to focus on high crime areas and to focus the resources there, to allocate more officers. It’s actually on the whole pretty effective in reducing crime,” said Robert Weisberg of Stanford University’s Criminal Justice Center. He went on to say, “this goes a step farther in terms of actually listing individuals.”
We’ll see what the future holds with this technology and the people of Chicago.