Do Chicago Police Engage in Profiling?

420 Chicagoans have been determined to be Chicago's most likely to commit a crime. How was this determined?

New crime prevention methods being touted by the Chicago Police Department are causing alarm. Specifically, innocent individuals are being targeted as potential criminals based on past conviction data, creating heightened risk of racial profiling.

The Chicago Police Department has begun using statistics to determine who is likely to commit a crime based on whether they are in some way connected with a person who has a history of conviction. This information is then used to saturate targeted neighborhoods with police force and to forewarn targeted individuals that they are being watched. In fact, the CPD has used algorithms to determine the 420 men in Chicago most likely to commit a crime, and they are going after them. The result of this combination of data--potentially faulty data, as of course conviction statistics only reflect who is charged with crimes and cannot be the whole picture—and gross assumptions about association has real potential as a catalyst for racial profiling. Indeed, as the courts are already unfavorable to racial and ethnic minorities, those same minorities will also be more often deemed future criminals, and treated as criminals as a result.

This data crunching is not unique to Chicago. In fact, Chicago is slow to join the band wagon of statistics-based policing. While cities with high crime rates have reason to search for ways to use technology to come to the rescue, the fact is that the information offered by past statistics is not necessarily a fair prediction of future crime. Furthermore, it is unfair to assume that a person who is connected—perhaps only by social media—to a former convict is themselves likely to commit a crime. In theory, identifying high risk areas and individuals could help curb crimes before they happen; but in reality, pressure on innocent individuals based on statistics and association is an unjust act of discrimination.

In theory, identifying high risk areas and individuals could help curb crimes before they happen; but in reality, pressure on innocent individuals based on statistics and association is an unjust act of discrimination (after all, "freedom of association" is our right). In an interview for a June 2013 TIME Magazine article about these new tactics, Pamela Wright—resident and mother of Tyrone Lawson, victim of a fatal Chicago shooting—says that the message she got from hearing McCarthy speak was "'that they would shoot first and ask questions later.'" She continues, "'Every group of young black men is a gang to him—what would be a 'group' of white kids is a 'gang' if they're black.'"

No resident should feel unjustly accused of committing a crime based on their race, their economic status, or otherwise, and the fact that people are now being accused of committing a crime not in the past but in the futureis all the more frightening.

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