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The "Minority Report" of Today's CPD

By Sean Stillmaker in News on Jan 22, 2011 4:00PM

A Chicago Police Officer used to walk a beat. He’d get to know the tavern owner, the baker and could nail a collar in no time. Then the department upgraded to cars. Officers chase calls 24 hours a day roaming the city endlessly. Today the CPD is predicting where and when a crime will occur, and quite accurately.

The “fusion center,” gathers intelligence from local, state and federal agencies with access to the city’s video surveillance system, the most expansive in the U.S. (America’s most watched city). Then working with the Predictive Analytics Group, a group formed by Superintendent Jody Weis last spring, will issue the hot spot reports.

The group started with weekly predictions, but have become so good in nine months they’re pumping out twice-a-day intelligence reports with the attainable goal of issuing real-time predictions, the Sun Times reports.

Politicians and citizens alike only care about statistics when it comes to crime, they’ve been screaming for Weis’s head since the election. Rates for major crimes have decreased during Weis's tenure. Homicides are down to their lowest level (435) since 1965. Still, citizens across the city feel there is an increase in crime.

But the pressure obviously decrees zero crime, where the new prediction tool fits in. The CPD had an old tool, relying on citizens for help. The Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) has been the most expansive community policing initiative in the U.S. since it first started as a pilot program in 1993.

Chicago’s 25 police districts are divided into 279 beats. For 18 years there were monthly meetings for each beat, where it boiled down to three-four meetings per week for each district. The meetings allowed citizens and police to problem solve on strategies and provide intelligence from both sides.

CAPS participation hit a high in 2002 with 67,000 attending, but a close to 25 percent decrease last year led to the CAPS budget being slashed from $9 million to $4.8 million, Chicago News Cooperative Reports. Meetings are now being shifted to a quarterly basis.