Chicago’s Crime-Predicting Software May Be Racist

Aditi Mukherji, JD

Remember “Minority Report” and the police’s futuristic ability to predict crime and preemptively apprehend criminals? Well, the future is here and it’s possibly racist.

The Chicago Police’s crime-predicting computers might be suffering from a social glitch or two — namely, racial profiling. But other tech advances are now a normal part of police work, The Verge reports.

Here are three forms of technology regularly used by law enforcement:

  1. Computerized warrant and record checks. Federal, state, and local law enforcement and other criminal justice agencies regularly use the National Crime Information Center, a computerized index of criminal justice information. With the NCIC at his or her fingertips, an officer from any police department that participates in the NCIC network can check a driver’s warrant history, apprehend a fugitive, locate a missing person, and locate and return stolen property.
  2. Facial recognition software. NeoFace, one of the facial-recognition tools being used by police departments across the country, led to the arrest of Pierre Martin, the first person in Chicago arrested as a result of the Chicago Police Department’s high-tech program that includes facial recognition software, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Officers are being trained to use the system which launched last June. With 24,000 surveillance cameras tied into the city’s computer network, it’s no wonder why facial recognition software is causing an uproar over privacy rights. Chicago Police detectives will be asked to submit unidentified surveillance photos from cold cases for possible matches in the NeoFace system.
  3. Drones. Police use of aerial drones is taking off, but is raising privacy and other legal concerns. Illinois is among the states that limit police power to use drones. Last year, Governor Pat Quinn signed the Freedom from Drone Surveillance Act into law. It requires law enforcement to get a search warrant before they can legally collect information using unmanned drone aircrafts. The law aims to protect Illinoisans’ right to privacy. But it does create an exception for the Department of Homeland Security when drone surveillance is needed to thwart a terrorist threat.

Sure, this technology isn’t quite as futuristic as “Minority Report,” but it’s still pretty out there.

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Chicago’s Crime-Predicting Software May Be Racist