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Chicago's Experiment In Predictive Policing Isn't Working (theverge.com) 191

The U.S. will phase out private prisons, a move made possible by fewer and shorter sentences for drug offenses, reports the BBC. But when it comes to reducing arrests for violent crimes, police officers in Chicago found themselves resorting ineffectively to a $2 million algorithm which ultimately had them visiting people before any crime had been committed. schwit1 quotes Ars Technica: Struggling to reduce its high murder rate, the city of Chicago has become an incubator for experimental policing techniques. Community policing, stop and frisk, "interruption" tactics --- the city has tried many strategies. Perhaps most controversial and promising has been the city's futuristic "heat list" -- an algorithm-generated list identifying people most likely to be involved in a shooting.

The hope was that the list would allow police to provide social services to people in danger, while also preventing likely shooters from picking up a gun. But a new report from the RAND Corporation shows nothing of the sort has happened. Instead, it indicates that the list is, at best, not even as effective as a most wanted list. At worst, it unnecessarily targets people for police attention, creating a new form of profiling.

The police argue they've updated the algorithm and improved their techniques for using it. But the article notes that the researchers began following the "heat list" when it launched in 2013, and "found that the program has saved no lives at all."
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Chicago's Experiment In Predictive Policing Isn't Working

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Sounds like something out of Minority Report. That incidentally backfired too.

  • Responsibility. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 21, 2016 @09:48AM (#52742643)

    Maybe the enterprise of saving lives shouldn't be put entirely on the police? Obviously they have a role to play, but when we are talking about prevention, other institutions also have a huge role to play.

    For example, many killings are the result of mental health problems that are going untreated. Part of the problem there is that the necessary care can be expensive. So....let's do something about that. What does the government-funded health care landscape look like these days? And what about educational grants (NOT LOANS) for mental health practitioners?

    There is also still a strong social stigma against seeking mental health. Nobody is embarrassed to say something like "My arm was broke so I went to see the doctor," but the moment someone utters the phrase "mental health" everyone thinks of him as crazy, weak, and pathetic. This is ridiculous, and we need to put more social engineering to the task of fixing that (for example, a lot more television and movies can include scenes and dialogue implicating that the popular characters are seeing mental health professionals...and the attitude is that this is just a given that normal people do this sort of thing on a routine basis).

    There are, of course, also economic motivators for murder. If poor people are being driven to these extremes by poverty, then why isn't one of the richest countries in the world doing something to address that? Why do we continue to abide the existence of charities that spend nearly all the donated money on their own staff and get no effective results? Why aren't we making more use of proven-effective programs like microlending?

    There is quite a lot that can be done, and the police can't be left alone to do it all.

    • by tbuskey ( 135499 )

      Maybe the enterprise of saving lives shouldn't be put entirely on the police? Obviously they have a role to play, but when we are talking about prevention, other institutions also have a huge role to play.

      For example, many killings are the result of mental health problems that are going untreated. Part of the problem there is that the necessary care can be expensive. So....let's do something about that. What does the government-funded health care landscape look like these days? And what about educational grants (NOT LOANS) for mental health practitioners?

      There is also still a strong social stigma against seeking mental health. Nobody is embarrassed to say something like "My arm was broke so I went to see the doctor," but the moment someone utters the phrase "mental health" everyone thinks of him as crazy, weak, and pathetic. This is ridiculous, and we need to put more social engineering to the task of fixing that (for example, a lot more television and movies can include scenes and dialogue implicating that the popular characters are seeing mental health professionals...and the attitude is that this is just a given that normal people do this sort of thing on a routine basis).

      ...

      There is quite a lot that can be done, and the police can't be left alone to do it all.

      Keep Sound Minds [keepsoundminds.org] is trying to reduce the stigma of mental health issues and work toward policies that help people get help before damage is done.

    • Re:Responsibility. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by blindseer ( 891256 ) <blindseer@earthl ... t minus math_god> on Sunday August 21, 2016 @05:10PM (#52744227)

      There is also still a strong social stigma against seeking mental health. Nobody is embarrassed to say something like "My arm was broke so I went to see the doctor," but the moment someone utters the phrase "mental health" everyone thinks of him as crazy, weak, and pathetic.

      There is a big difference between going to a surgeon to fix a broken arm and going to a psychiatrist for a mental illness. A broken arm does not lead to the police coming to your house to take your guns. Depending on the conditions of the mental illness in Illinois the government will revoke your FOID for one year, five years, or the rest of your life for seeking treatment for a mental illness. Getting a FOID is difficult and expensive. Getting a firearm to protect yourself, your home, and your family is also difficult and expensive. Being disarmed in your own home is not pleasant if one lacks the means to move to a better neighborhood or one is bound by some (real or imagined) obligation to stay put.

      You want to see crime go down and people get treatment for mental illness? Then get rid of the laws that disarm people and leave them vulnerable to the thugs that the police cannot do anything about. The police can only come when called, they cannot be there every time there is a crime, as much as they might want to be there. When a crime is committed there are certain to be two people present, the perpetrator and the victim. Let's allow the victims to be armed so that they can defend themselves.

      Illinois was the last state in the federation to lift the ban on concealed carry of weapons. Even though they are technically available the process to get the license is lengthy and expensive, something not everyone that need them can afford. The license alone costs $150. Then there is the required training, photograph, fingerprints, and probably more that have to be paid for. The time to do all of this is likely out of the question for the average blue collar worker.

      This brings up the question on why Illinois even needs a permit to carry a concealed weapon. Would you believe me if I said six states do not require permits to carry a concealed weapon? Well, you shouldn't because the real number is more like eleven, depending on how one defines permitless carry. Carrying a weapon in the open, not concealed, does not require a permit in 25 or 30 states.

      Where is all of this crime happening? There seems to be a strong correlation between restrictions on the carry of self defense tools and violent crimes. There is also a strong correlation between Democrat governance and crime. Think about that the next time you vote.

      • by Cederic ( 9623 )

        There seems to be a strong correlation between restrictions on the carry of self defense tools and violent crimes

        Unlike, for instance, the relationship between mental health issues and use of guns against human targets?

        Oh, wait. Does that completely wreck your entire argument?

      • There is also a strong correlation between Democrat governance and crime. Think about that the next time you vote.

        You had me up to there. It's actually more that 1) There's a strong correlation between population density and Democratic governance (and its emphasis on shared services), and 2) There's a strong correlation between population density and crime. Might as well say something like "ice cream causes violent crime [rationalwiki.org]" or something. Yes, you said "correlation", but "causation" was strongly hinted.

    • Re:Responsibility. (Score:4, Informative)

      by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Sunday August 21, 2016 @06:15PM (#52744477) Journal

      If poor people are being driven to these extremes by poverty, then why isn't one of the richest countries in the world doing something to address that?

      This is an insult to poor people. Like, "Oh, they are poor, they can't help themselves from murdering." Being a former poor person myself, I spit in your face. When was the last time you actually helped a poor person instead of saying, "Oh, someone should help them."

    • > There is also still a strong social stigma against seeking mental health. Nobody is
      > embarrassed to say something like "My arm was broke so I went to see the doctor,"
      > but the moment someone utters the phrase "mental health" everyone thinks of
      > him as crazy, weak, and pathetic.

      Problem... if you go see a psychiatrist once, you become virtually unemployable in many sought-after jobs. This has to change before people will consider seeing a psychiatrist.

      Unfortunately, "big data" has ways of findin

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 21, 2016 @09:49AM (#52742649)

    The failed experiment, called Chicago, just doesn't work. We have all known that for decades

  • by ITRambo ( 1467509 ) on Sunday August 21, 2016 @09:51AM (#52742655)
    Having more real cops on the streets would be best. I know that the ghetto is the last place Chicago cops want to be. But, that's where most of their murders take place. To curtail murders requires more than a computer program that does nothing actually predictive, only data mining.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by DarkVader ( 121278 )

      No, this country is severely overcopped. What we need is fewer police.

      I think a 90% reduction would be a good start.

      • Maybe just get rid of all cops, and increase the number of lawyers.

        Hell, while we're at it, we can change the qualification to become a lawyer too: Memorize the dictionary. All you need to know are more words than others, and BAM, you're a lawyer.

        In order to become a judge, you must own at least 2 hunting camps.

    • Maybe they should give guns to, and deputize everyone in these ghettos that you're speaking of. That way they could all just shoot and/or arrest each other. Last men standing get fired from the force. Maybe that'll reboot the ghettos.

      No. Even I can't tell if that's sarcasm or not.

    • by brunes69 ( 86786 )

      Actually what would be best would be spending more resources in combating the economic and social issues that are causing the crime to arise in the first place. Dollars spent on social programs reduce far more crime than dollars spent on police.

  • by cirby ( 2599 ) on Sunday August 21, 2016 @10:00AM (#52742693)

    Enforce the laws on minor crimes, and major crimes go down. You don't have to be a hardass, or pick on anyone in particular, just enforce the common, everyday laws that help keep things working.

    We know this works.

    When people notice that nobody is enforcing the little stuff, they start assuming that they can get away with the larger crimes - and they're usually right.

    The problem is that, after a few years of it working, everyone relaxes and thinks "hey, crime is down, we can slack off a bit," and it's okay, for a while. Then things start slowly getting worse again, and the "corrective measures" tend to be away from the policies that were in force a few years before, because "they stopped working."

    • by bistromath007 ( 1253428 ) on Sunday August 21, 2016 @10:24AM (#52742779)
      This basically equates to "lock up poor people constantly." They're the ones who are most likely to accidentally blunder into a fine, and least likely to be able to pay it in a timely fashion. They become exponentially less likely to be able to pay after getting locked up, making them even more of a crime risk. So, there goes your "don't have to be a hardass" idea.

      The actual solution is to not have small crimes. If it's not important, don't waste fucking resources on it. About half of what cops arrest people for, they should be referring them to social workers instead.
      • Another solution is to make fines be a percentage of income, with perhaps a small amount of community service replacing them for the unemployed.

      • by swb ( 14022 ) on Sunday August 21, 2016 @12:56PM (#52743295)

        The actual solution is to not have small crimes.

        Once you eliminate victimless crimes (drugs and prostitution), what exactly are small crimes? I'd say legalize drugs and prostitution, enforcement of prohibition on those items has been a disaster for civil liberties.

        Is the cluster of "civil order" crimes, like not blocking the sidewalk, lurking, panhandling, loitering? I can sort of agree, seeing as they can (and probably are) highly selectively enforced. But having been in downtown areas where they were actually happening, I find myself wishing they were being vigorously enforced. People who crowd the sidewalk basically looking for a confrontation, aggressive panhandling, and so on make being in urban areas unpleasant. I want to be able to walk on the public sidewalk unimpeded by people loitering, especially people who use hostility and aggressive behavior to claim the space or challenge passersby.

        After that, I don't know what you'd consider a small crime. Most crimes involving private properly may be small by some dollar-denominated measure, but to the people involved they were real hassles -- a bike stolen, sunglasses stolen from a car, etc.

        On the whole, though, I'd say broken windows policing makes some kind of common sense by enforcing laws that mandate good civil public behavior and respect for private property. Not doing so seems to breed a lack of respect for civil order and make enforcement seem more selective than it already does.

        • I'd go along with decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana, but other drugs would need a more intensive intervention. The financial pressures of drug addiction lead to more destructive crimes. Non-violent drug offenders could get probation/enforced rehab instead of prison for small amount possession. Prostitution is usually not a victimless crime, prostitutes typically are in an involuntary servitude arrangement with a pimp, so the prostitute is the victim. Maybe when Hookers get Health/Dental coverage, work

          • by swb ( 14022 )

            The "financial pressures" of drug addiction are the result of the risks of drug dealing being built into the price of illegal drugs, not the material price of drugs.

            I bought 150 mg (total, 30 x 5 mg) oxycodone for $6.32 when I last had a prescription. That price is so low that the pharmacy doesn't even charge you the copay, they just sell it at the retail price. And that retail price has all the high costs associated with an insane amount of tracking and regulation of a schedule II drug built into it, inc

          • There should be no laws criminalizing mere possession of any substance intended for consumption, in a society that respects bodily autonomy, period. Possession with intent to distribute, and especially for commercial purposes, is another matter.

            Prostitution is involuntarily precisely because it's illegal in and of itself - since prostitutes cannot resort to police and courts to have the same protection from the society as other occupations. In countries which have properly legalized that industry, like New

          • If prostitution is legalized, the slavery aspect disappears. When the enslaved person has the ability to go to the police, the ability to enslave them disappears. As it is right now, the prostitutes get arrested just for being prostitutes, even if unwillingly, so they fear the police.

      • My question for you is, do you think that vandalism and graffiti shouldn't be crimes? Or do you think they should be treated like robbery and murder?
        Under the broken windows theory of policing, vandalism and graffiti are the two primary "small crimes" which they advocate cracking down on.
    • by felrom ( 2923513 ) on Sunday August 21, 2016 @10:30AM (#52742805)

      Maybe the president could start enforcing the gun laws he has the power to enforce, instead of pushing for new restrictions on law abiding citizens?

      In 2010, out of 48,321 felons and fugitives who attempted to illegally purchase firearms, the Department of Justice prosecuted only 44 of them. https://youtu.be/06wJ50p6rMs [youtu.be]

      That's 48,321 open and shut cases of felons and fugitives swearing in writing on their ATF Form 4473 that they can legally posses a gun, when they couldn't. The Justice Department gladly allows 99.91% of the prohibited felons who attempt to buy a gun from a federally licensed dealer simply walk free. Right there are 48,321 minor crimes that could have been enforced that weren't.

      • by epine ( 68316 )

        instead of pushing for new restrictions on law abiding citizens

        I didn't know we had two sets of books.

        By the way, in the Chicago Manual, "law abiding" as a modifier is written "law-abiding", so I'm already suspecting you're one of those selective law abiders (to hell with the Nazi rules), who sometimes defers keeping the gun safe locked, and yet you probably don't think you should go straight to jail. After all, what could possibly deter B&E better than an unlocked gun safe?

        Crime Gun Theft [duke.edu]

        The FBI keeps

      • "The areas that received additional attention experienced a 20% reduction in calls to the police. The study concluded that cleaning up the physical environment was more effective than misdemeanor arrests and that increasing social services had no effect"

        Get your racist, bullshit trash theories out of here and maybe join the 21st century. That retarded idea was old and busted twenty years ago
      • by bosef1 ( 208943 )

        As I understand, there's a Catch-22 associated with the ATF background check: from what I've been told, the only way to see if the background check thinks you are prohibited from owning a gun is to submit the paperwork for a background check. And since no gun shop is going to submit the paperwork if you aren't going to buy a gun, or if you say "No I can't possess a gun", the only way to check is to try and buy a gun, submit the paperwork, and see if it comes back negative.

        While I agree that a 1-in-1000 pro

        • If you have been convicted of a felony, it is illegal for you to posses a firearm. You know if you have been convicted of a felony, and felons almost automatically go through the parole system and are counselled on the illegality of them possessing a firearm. There may be an outlier cases where someone was mistakenly put on a list or had a conviction over-turned without being removed, but the vast majority of those failing background check were aware they were prohibited from weapons possession.

      • Maybe the president could start enforcing the gun laws he has the power to enforce, instead of pushing for new restrictions on law abiding citizens?

        Because that's what liberals do, they make a grandstand play, pass a law with a feel-good title, catch some news coverage for trying to solve a problem, then become derelict on enforcement because it might actually reduce some minority on minority crime. If you reduce minority on minority crime, the minorities might become self-sufficient and tell the liberals to go to hell with their plantation mentality.

    • by whoever57 ( 658626 ) on Sunday August 21, 2016 @12:17PM (#52743129) Journal

      Enforce the laws on minor crimes, and major crimes go down. You don't have to be a hardass, or pick on anyone in particular, just enforce the common, everyday laws that help keep things working.

      We know this works.

      Citation? And one that doesn't simply show crime numbers reducing, because reduced lead in the environment explains the reduction

      Let's face it, even the police don't believe this. The police are able to get away with misconduct with insignificant or no consequences.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by DarkVader ( 121278 )

      You're talking about the old "broken windows" theory.

      It's been discredited, of course. It doesn't actually accomplish anything other than locking up poor people, and it's been used in a very disproportionally racist manner.

      When you do a comparison of crime rates in cities that used it and cities that didn't, both have seen a decrease in crime. Probably the most likely reason has been the removal of lead from gasoline, significantly reducing the degree of low-level lead poisoning.

    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Sunday August 21, 2016 @12:30PM (#52743201) Homepage Journal

      The problem in any kind of engineering -- and we're talking about social engineering here -- is that everything has its drawbacks.

      The foundation of modern policing is a focus on two functions: bringing people to justice, and keeping the peace. You can unquestionably obtain gains in controlling certain kinds of disorder by adding a third function to he police: acting as an instrument behavioral control on the populace. The drawback is that this puts police into a position of habitual conflict with populations they serve, undermining the Peelian principle that the police are the people, and the people the police.

      Over time the police begin to be viewed less as public servants and more like an occupying army. Since this process takes time, we ought to be skeptical of short term results that show improvements in statistical measures of public order. Think of public respect and cooperation for the police as a kind of social capital. If in toting up progress you ignore the capital you're spending you're not getting a true picture.

      Public cooperation has been the foundation of successful policing for almost two hundred years, since Robert Peel established the Metropolitan Police in 1829. We should think long and hard about abandoning, or even tinkering with that model.

    • We know this works.

      Except for the part where most (all?) studies that measure the effects of broken windows policing don't find any positive result.

      Now, it gets repeated a lot. And it has a compelling (if, based on evidence, incorrect) rationalle. But that only "works" like Reaganomics.

    • We know this works.

      No, we really don't. Whether or not this works remains a matter of controversy, and there is little unambiguous evidence to support either side of the debate.

    • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

      no we don't know this works.

      what we do know is that it quickly becomes "lock up non white and or poor people".

  • The algorithm is some random picking in the felon list!

  • Perhaps the police in Chicago are simply unsuited to protecting people from gun-toting criminals, and they should allow law-abiding citizens to do it themselves.
    • by Calydor ( 739835 )

      From a European point of view, from someone who has no idea what the local laws are in Chicago, it sounds like you're encouraging allowing vigilante justice.

      • The local laws in Chicago are some of the most restrictive in the USA. Basically, it reduces to "no guns for you unless you're politically connected".

        And yet, the bad guys still seem to get guns with no real issues. Perhaps because if you're a criminal, you see nothing particularly wrong with breaking the gun laws, but who knows?

        • The policy could theoretically work if Chicago could keep people from driving to Hammond and Gary and buying firearms. They can't so it's probably doing more harm than good.

          • My sister and her husband live in Illinois and they went out of state to buy a firearm, not Indiana but Iowa. They had to provide ID, submit to a background check, and wait 24 hours for delivery as required by Illinois law because they are legally Illinois residents. Going out of state does not allow a person to bypass federal law, or even many state laws.

            The firearm they purchased had to meet the laws of Illinois on how they define an "assault weapon". I don't know what would happen if they tried to b

          • by harrkev ( 623093 )

            I find it funny how some people blame Chicago's violence problems on other cities with more lax laws. The interesting thing is how other cities with more guns generally have LESS CRIME.

            So, we have two cities: one with high crime, and one with low crime. Obviously, the solution is to take the laws of the failing city and force those on the city that is doing OK. Yeah, right. This is like taking a test and cheating off of the dumbest kid in the class. If I were running a business, I would want to take bu

            • by Calydor ( 739835 )

              You should look up gun-related deaths per capita in the US and in various European countries, then try to apply your logic again. :-)

              • by harrkev ( 623093 )

                Another example of VERY flawed logic.

                Suppose that I had a relative who was killed by a red car. I go on a crusade saying that all red cars are dangerous and get the laws changed -- red cars are now illegal. After 10 years, the number of red-car-involved deaths effectively drops to zero. So, I can now claim success and that taking red cars off of the streets has made the streets safer.

                My forcing murderers to use different tools does not make them stop being murderers.

                Other countries also have different am

      • No the principal is if everyone is able to defend themselves, up to and including deadly force if necessary, violent criminals would be more wary of plying their trade. Years ago Miami Florida was known as the murder capital of the US, as a result Florida loosened their concealed weapons laws and crime went down considerably. It got to the point where the majority of people being robbed were people driving rental cars, the criminals knew that tourist who flew into Florida would be unarmed. Even now rental c

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      they should allow law-abiding citizens to do it themselves

      I support the right of people to bear arms. That said; most of the violence in Chicago is gang vs gang. And from their point of view, they are protecting their neighborhood or favorite dealing street corner from their rivals. Things that they value as much as you value your family and home. It's a culture thing, and until you can change that and give these people something worthwhile (in our eyes) to defend, things will keep going on as they are.

  • by ka9dgx ( 72702 ) on Sunday August 21, 2016 @10:29AM (#52742799) Homepage Journal

    The problem with predicting where to go to stop crimes is that many of the crimes in Chicago are gang related, instead of property related. Houses to be robbed don't move, but rival gang members can be found anywhere. Predictive algorithms assume fixed targets.

    If there was a real crackdown on Gangs, crime would decrease for a while, but I think that too many bribes are preventing that from happening. It would be far better to legalize drugs, defunding the gangs.

    Of course, as a privileged white male from the suburbs, I could be wrong.

    • by CrimsonAvenger ( 580665 ) on Sunday August 21, 2016 @10:40AM (#52742845)

      It would be far better to legalize drugs, defunding the gangs.

      Of course, as a privileged white male from the suburbs, I could be wrong.

      Once upon a time, we tried a "noble experiment" that we called Prohibition. For Chicago, as for most of the nation, the result was vastly increased crime, and gun battles in the streets (remember "the Night Chicago Died", anyone?).

      Eventually, we got rid of that particular notion, and thing settled down.

      And then we decided we needed to Do Something (about the recreational chemicals of choice of certain, shall we say, darker-skinned citizens) and now we have The War On Drugs.

      So far, the War on Drugs (AKA Prohibition II) has had pretty much exactly the same effects as Prohibition.

      So, let's try a really bold experiment! End the War On Drugs (Prohibition II), and see if it has the same effects that ending Prohibition had. After all, we can always restart the War On Drugs if ending it doesn't fix the problems.

      And, what the Hell, it just might work to let people drink/smoke/inject whatever they want, rather than trying to be Mommy to every citizen....

      • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Sunday August 21, 2016 @12:05PM (#52743075)
        I don't entirely disagree with your position on drugs (it has philosophical incompatibilities between it and the concept of democracy because of the loss of free will due to addiction, which need to be resolved). But having briefly done business in Chicago, the city has a massive government corruption problem. Various inspectors expected bribes to "overlook" minor faults which really shouldn't have resulted in citations (e.g. dead light bulb in unused warehouse space). Various permitting officials wanted bribes to "expedite" our applications so they wouldn't sit on the back burner for weeks or months.

        Corruption drains money from legitimate economic activity, which ultimately depresses wages, reduces job opportunities, and increases prices. The poor are the most impacted by these consequences, and it helps keep them poor and in ghettos. I'm not saying this is the root cause of all their problems, but neither is the War on Drugs. The vast majority of problems have multiple causes. Afghanistan doesn't have an opium production problem simply because the price of heroin is high, but also because its economy is so shot it's nearly impossible to make a living any other way.
        • > it has philosophical incompatibilities between it and the concept of democracy because of the loss of free will due to addiction, which need to be resolved

          I'll resolve this for you now, the best I can, which is that philosophical free will simply does not exist. There is nothing in physics that gives rise to free will, we are deterministic (though chaotic and unpredictable) bioelectrochemical machines. Free will is merely an illusion. We have no more free choice than a planet does to orbit the sun, or

    • No bribes. CPD is just awful at their jobs. Well I guess you could make an argument for malicious incompetence with respect to their clean manipulation of crime statistics, but they are probably not corrupt.
    • by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Sunday August 21, 2016 @01:31PM (#52743445)

      > If there was a real crackdown on Gangs, crime would decrease for a while,

      We actually had that once but it was too successful so it was stopped. WTF!?

      Scroll down to 7. The Harvard Man of How America Lost the War on Drugs [rollingstone.com] to see how the power of Name & Shame worked.

      7. The Harvard Man

      For the cops on the front lines of the War on Drugs, the federal government's fixation with marijuana was deeply perplexing. As they saw it, the problem wasn't pot but the drug-related violence that accompanied cocaine and other hard drugs. After the crack epidemic in the late 1980s, police commissioners around the country, like Lee Brown in Houston, began adding more officers and developing computer mapping to target neighborhoods where crime was on the rise. The crime rate dropped. But by the mid-1990s, police in some cities were beginning to realize there was a certain level that they couldn't get crime below. Mass jailings weren't doing the trick: Only fifteen percent of those convicted of federal drug crimes were actual traffickers; the rest were nothing but street-level dealers and mules, who could always be replaced.

      Police in Boston, concerned about violence between youth drug gangs, turned for assistance to a group of academics. Among them was a Harvard criminologist named David Kennedy. Working together, the academics and members of the department's anti-gang unit came up with what Kennedy calls a "quirky" strategy and convinced senior police commanders to give it a try. The result, which began in 1995, was the Boston Gun Project, a collaborative effort among ministers and community leaders and the police to try to break the link between the drug trade and violent crime. First, the project tracked a particular drug-dealing gang, mapping out its membership and operations in detail. Then, in an effort called Operation Ceasefire, the dealers were called into a meeting with preachers and parents and social-service providers, and offered a deal: Stop the violence, or the police will crack down with a vengeance. "We know the seventeen guys you run with," the gangbangers were told. "If anyone in your group shoots somebody, we'll arrest every last one of you." The project also extended drug treatment and other assistance to anyone who wanted it.

      The effort worked: The rates of homicide and violence among young men in Boston dropped by two-thirds. Drug dealing didn't stop -- "people continued what they were doing," Kennedy concedes, "but they put their guns down." As Kennedy reflected on the success of the Boston project, which ran for five years, he wondered if he had discovered a deeper truth about drug-related violence. If the murders weren't a necessary component of the drug trade -- if it was possible to separate the two -- perhaps cities could find a way to reduce the violence, even if they could do nothing about the drugs.

      In 2001, Kennedy got a call from the mayor of San Francisco that gave him a chance to examine his theories in a new setting. The city had experienced a recent spike in its murder rate, much of it caused by an ongoing feud between two drug-dealing gangs -- Big Block and West Mob -- that had resulted in dozens of murders over the years. Could Kennedy, the mayor asked, help police figure out how to stop the killings?

      Kennedy flew out to San Francisco and met with police. But as he researched the history of the violence, it seemed to confirm his findings in Boston. Though both Big Block and West Mob were involved in dealing drugs, the shootings were not really drug-related -- the two groups occupied different territories and were not battling over turf. "The feud had started over who would perform next at a neighborhood rap event," says Kennedy, now a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. "They had been killing each other ever since."

      Such evidence suggested that d

  • You need three and not only one to predict crimes.That way the two can overrule the one that is wrong. Everybody knows that. They even turned the manual into a documentary.

  • by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Sunday August 21, 2016 @10:38AM (#52742833)

    "Chicago's Experiment In Predictive Policing Isn't Working"

    Oh, so predicting the future doesn't work?

    Damn, who could have guessed that prophesying is a tricky business? Who could have foreseen that? :)

    • by Anonymous Coward

      No one could have foreseen that because that would be prophesying which is a tricky business.

  • It is simply not possible to know whether this technique is working or not. This is an alternative histories problem, and you have to choose between a bunch of flawed options to detect effectiveness. Each option is so flawed as to render the certainty suggested by the headline inappropriate.

  • Predictions about predictions about crime

    Predictive policing isn't working? -- no one would have seen that coming!

    • When I was in Chicago, in the "Miracle Mile" area a year or two ago, I don't see any crime (Unless you count pan-handling), but I saw a beat cop on every corner and a roving patrol in between; seems predicting Tourists in over-price hotels and restaurants would attract criminals and a high density of police would deter them seems to work.

    • Mod parent up.

      I am disgusted by the US media that they have not picked up this story. It's an absolute disgrace, both by the police and the media.

      • Mod parent up.

        I am disgusted by the US media that they have not picked up this story. It's an absolute disgrace, both by the police and the media.

        Well Obama's Friend and former Administration member, Rom Emanuel, is mayor so It's unlikely either He or Hillary are too anxious for a lot of press on this.

  • Clickbait summary (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jenningsthecat ( 1525947 ) on Sunday August 21, 2016 @02:22PM (#52743627)

    The summary leaves out some important information that would tend to blunt the hyperbole it's trying to drive home. From the article:

    It stressed that RAND "evaluated a very early version" of the list, "which has since evolved greatly and has been fully integrated with the Department’s management accountability process." It also points out that "the prediction model discussed in the report is the very early, initial model (Version 1), developed in August, 2012. We are now using Version 5, which is significantly improved."

    A failing grade on the performance of a four-year-old version of the software, (and a four-year-old set of policies and procedures for using same), is hardly a reason to get all hot 'n' bothered, when what really matters is how the program is working today. It's news, and it may be significant, but it tells us nothing about the current effectiveness of the program in question. There are valid moral, ethical, and possibly legal issues around whether such a program should even exist, and whether the police are the right ones to be managing it - but that conversation shouldn't take place in the context of a FUD-driven summary of an article based largely on very stale data.

    • a move made possible by fewer and shorter sentences for drug offenses,

      The linked article does mention reduced sentences for drug related crimes. But it also makes it clear that drug related crime is a very minor factor in the decision to get away from private prisons.

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