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August 22, 2013
A minor implementation of the Minority Report becomes a major step into digital future
By: Mark McDonald

On the front page of the August 21st Chicago Tribune is a story by Jeremy Gorner entitled “The Heat List”. The list is a set of 400 names of people the Chicago Police Department believes ‘most prone to violence.’ Police officers visit people on the list to let them know of their concerns and offer social and job related services. The idea is to talk with those most likely to be violent to hopefully avoid future violence. Sound familiar? A minor form of pre-crime is in Chicago and probably other cities.

Big data meets big city policing that is the essence of The Heat List. The article explains how the Police used multiple factors to compile the list, including criminal records, known associations, recent events and other factors. They assume that even though you may have a limited arrest record, the potential for violence rises when a friend or family member is a victim of violence.

Technically and sociologically, public analytics is the next wave of intelligent public safety. It can give Police and other services a way to get a head of the curve, focus social services, etc. The article did not explore the legal and civil rights aspects of The Heat List. But one person mentioned in the article saw it as a form of profiling and racial bias.

Violence is a real problem in any community. People welcome actions that reduce violence and The Heat List is just the latest one. I will leave the discussion of the merits, social, legal and civil rights aspects of actively applying analytics and big data to public safety to others. There are real issues and implications in each of these areas.

The Heat List is an example of the increasingly diverse set of solutions possible in a digital world. This is a world where information enables the identification and individualization of products, services or, in this case, policing. The Heat List represents another side of digital business, analytics and big data in the real world.

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