By Aaron Kesel
I don’t know if you have been paying attention or not, but a lot of police organizations across the U.S. have been using what are known as “heat lists” or pre-crime databases for years. What is a “heat list,” you may ask?
Well, “heat lists” are basically databases compiled by algorithms of people that police suspect may commit a crime. Yes, you read that right a person who “may” commit a crime. How these lists are generated and what factors determine an individual “may commit a crime” is unknown. A recent article by Tampa Bay Times highlights how this program in Florida terrorized and monitored residents of Pasco County and how the Pasco County Sheriff Department’s program operates.
According to the Times, the Sheriff’s office generates lists of people it considers likely to break the law, based on arrest histories, unspecified intelligence, and arbitrary decisions by police analysts. Then it sends deputies to find and interrogate anyone whose name appears, often without probable cause, a search warrant, or evidence of a specific crime.
This program according to the Times has been operating since at least 2011. The program introduces a social credit system. It gives people scores based on their criminal records. People get points each time they’re arrested, even when the charges are dropped, and they even get points for just being a suspect of a crime.
The deputies then make frequent – potentially even daily – visits to those with higher scores in the heavily flawed pre-criminal system.
Activists and journalists sued the Chicago Police Department in 2017 for failing to disclose how these programs operate, as Activist Post reported.
Chicago wasn’t the only major police department exposed using predictive crime algorithms. The Los Angeles Police Department was also caught one year later in 2018 by activists from the Stop LA Spying Coalition, as Activist Post reported.
This heat list idea in local law enforcement actually originated in Miami then was rolled out in Chicago. However, Activist Post may have missed other cities that gained less media attention;