Predictive analytics is not only used by financial investors to make a big win at the stock market, it is now also used to predict who that is likely to be involved in future crime. Philip K. Dick  introduced the idea of “precrime” in 1956 in the classic sci-fi book “The Minority Report”, where three pre-cognitive mutants were able to foresee not only future crime, but also the time, place and culprit. The idea was later made popular by the 2002 film “Minority Report” by Steven Spielberg starring Tom Cruise, and most lately by the Fox TV series premiering in September 2015.


The Chicago PD approach is however not based on mutant super powers, but rather on facts and statistics. Their model is based on the criminal records of local known offenders, and it is specific to the crimes committed, a not does not consider socio-economical factors, age, race, or gender. Patterns in crime is enough to tell who that is most likely to be involved in a violent crime within the next 18 months, either as a offender or as a victim.

“The model can’t necessarily tell if you’re going to be a victim or an offender. It just knows that you’re going to be a party. If you compare that prediction to one for another criminal, your chances are over five hundred times greater than they would be for a general member of the population or another criminal would be.”

The strategy of the police is then to locate and initiate a dialogue with these individuals. While the fictional model of precrime would have future felons convicted of the crime and put in jail before the fact, the Chicago model takes a “guardian” position where repeated offenders are offered a discussion on where there chosen path is taking them.

I found the article and approach really interesting as it is a striking example of how technology, big data, and predictive analytics is changing a well established and deeply culturally rooted practices at its core. Read the full story at Backchannel.