Is it Minority Report, or a Practical Solution?

The Chicago police department has come up with a bold idea to fight crime by using a computer algorithm that can predict illegal activity. If successful, it could have huge impacts in cities across the country.

In fact, they are already proving to be a success in cities like Chicago. In January to July, the number of shootings in the 7th District fell by 39% in one year.

Chicago’s South Side police headquarters installed a newly equipped control room where officers scan digital maps to see where a crime is likely to happen next.

According to the Big News Network, the 7th District is using an advanced new technology called HunchLab, a predictive policing program designed by Philadelphia-based firm Azavea.

“It combines crime data with factors including the location of local businesses, the weather and socioeconomic information to forecast where crime might occur, and the results help officers decide how to deploy resources,” the website writes.

The police will not reveal how their system has been compiled in case it reveals too much, but what they have said is that the algorithm looks at eight factors including prior drug arrests and gang affiliation to assign potential (or already convicted) criminals a number between 0 and 500. The higher the individual’s number, the higher the risk.

The algorithm also uses the Strategic Subject’s List, which is “a database of individuals likely to be involved in shootings that was developed by the Illinois Institute of Technology.” Furthermore, ShotSpotter Inc, the gunfire detection system; which uses sensors to pinpoint gunfire, is also being used.

The police department is hoping the new computer system will help them reduce crime in the region, and stop the criticisms they receive for how the department conducts its operations.

Early Indications Show Positive Results

Earlier this year, Bold Business reported on how a new internet-based system is tracking emergency 911 calls to pinpoint locations where emergencies are most likely to happen in Philadelphia.

Map of Districts and Police

Virtua uses historical data from past 911 calls, factoring the time of day, weather and traffic conditions to highlight areas most in need of emergency response units. Virtua’s computer system predicts when and where an emergency may happen.

The system highlights areas where emergency activity is most prevalent, and ensures units are ready within close proximity of the problem areas. Virtua currently has 13 paramedic units using GPS locators which are connected to a central system that sends the latest updates direct to their onboard computer systems.

According to reports, computer algorithms are slowly being picked up by leading emergency response units across America.

In fact, they are already proving to be a success in cities like Chicago. In January to July, the number of shootings in the 7th District fell by 39% in one year.

Additionally, the murder rate has dropped by 33% in the 7th district, while the rest of the city has seen an increase.

According to official data, three other districts where the technology is being used has seen between 15% and 29% fewer shootings, and 9% to 18% fewer homicides.

Experts say these numbers are evidence that computer algorithms are helping emergency services improve their operations, and the systems could be rolled out across the United States in due course. With this bold new idea, law makers as well as the police force hope to take substantial steps toward decreasing national crime rates. However, this technology will need to be coupled with a modernized legal reform to have a chance of long-term success.