Last year, Chicago’s top cop told reporters that his department is well aware of who is responsible for the city’s bloodshed:
“We have 1400 individuals that drive this gun violence in this city,” said Superintendent Eddie Johnson. “This isn’t a mystery. We’ve gotten very good at predicting who will be the perpetrators or victims of gun violence.” His comments were made following the death of Nykea Aldridge, the 32-year-old mother of four (and cousin of NBA star Dwyane Wade) whose tragic death made national headlines.
However, it seems like that figure might have been a little smaller than expected. After a lengthy legal battle, the Chicago Sun-Times has finally gotten access to a controversial “watch list” used by the Chicago Police Department.
The “Strategic Subject List”(SSL) includes over 398,000 entries—in short, everyone who has been arrested and fingerprinted in Chicago since 2013. According to the Sun-Times, half of the people who top the list have never been arrested on an illegal gun charge, while 13 percent of them have never been changed with any violent crime. In other words, the Chicago Police Department has assessed that 153 people who have never been arrested on charges related to guns or violence are most “at risk” for being involved in a violent crime.
An official statement provided to CASSIUS by a police spokesperson likens the assessment system to the way in which financial behavior is tracked by credit reporting bureaus:
“Like a credit score, the SSL is a simply a tool that calculates risk. It is not used for enforcement and does not establish probable cause for arrest or even questioning. The algorithm looks at eight attributes about a pattern of criminal activity, as identified by the Illinois Institute of Technology, not just arrests: number of times being the victim of a shooting incident, age during the latest arrest, number of times being the victim of aggravated battery or assault, number of prior arrests for violent offenses, gang affiliation, number of prior narcotic arrests, trend in recent criminal activity and number of prior unlawful use of weapon arrests.”
Wondering how those eight factors are weighed? The department isn’t releasing that information (just yet, at least). The model is allegedly “revised on an ongoing basis by the Illinois Institute of Technology” and does not take race, gender or neighborhood of residence into consideration.
CPD claims there may even be some benefits to the individuals who are included on the list. No, really:
“Through crime data and intelligence-based policing, CPD is using every resource to hold offenders accountable while at the same time conducting outreach on this population with social service and prosecutorial partners to divert future victims and offenders from violence. Known as “custom notifications,” the Department uses the SSL to identify individuals susceptible to violent activity and partners with community service organizations to proactively offer them assistance and services in finding success in life outside of crime.”
Social services that are said to be available via “custom notifications” include job training, substance abuse counseling and housing assistance.
Department spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi told the Sun-Times that being identified by the assessment tool should not mean that someone is going to be targeted by the police. “It’s not a list of individuals you go and arrest…We can’t arrest someone just because you have a 500 score,” he stated last week.
Be sure to check out the Chicago Sun-Times‘ coverage of this ongoing story.