Baltimore Starts Predictive Policing ‘Nerve Centers’

Mayor Catherine Pugh is bringing in expert Sean Malinowski of the Los Angeles Police Department to help open high-tech “nerve centers” that try to predict retaliatory shootings and transmit reports of gunfire to patrol officers.

California researchers started with a question: Can algorithms that predict earthquake aftershocks be used to forecast crime? The answer led to advances in predictive policing, a futuristic approach that uses data analysis and artificial intelligence to interrupt crimes before they are committed. Predictive policing has won over police chiefs around the U.S. and stirred debate among civil libertarians. Now Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh is bringing an architect of the strategy to her city, the Baltimore Sun reports. Sean  Malinowski, a deputy police chief in Los Angeles, has built a national reputation as a forward-thinking commander. Part statistician, part crime fighter, he has spent the past year helping Chicago police open high-tech “nerve centers” in violent neighborhoods.

In the centers, computers predict retaliatory shootings and transmit reports of gunfire to patrol officers. Those reports hit officers’ cellphones an average of three minutes before the first 911 call, Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said. “It allows the district commander to be incredibly nimble and deploy his resources much faster.” Nine hundred fewer people were shot last year in Chicago than the year before. Baltimore suffered 343 killings in 2017, a per-capita record. To stanch the violence, Pugh and Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa will open two nerve centers in about a month. A Department of Justice grant will pay for them. David Rocah of the American Civil Liberties Union is wary of predictive policing. “It’s hard to understand this approach to policing as anything other than a suppression strategy, where you flood certain areas with officers and ask them to stop as many people as possible,” he said. “That’s the kind of policing that has gotten Baltimore in trouble.”