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posted by janrinok on Thursday December 04 2014, @07:28PM   Printer-friendly
from the its-who-you-know-and-what-you-know dept.

The NYT reports that NY County District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s most significant initiative has been to transform, through the use of data, the way district attorneys fight crime. “The question I had when I came in was, Do we sit on our hands waiting for crime to tick up, or can we do something to drive crime lower?” says Vance. “I wanted to develop what I call intelligence-driven prosecution.” When Vance became DA in 2009, it was glaringly evident that assistant D.A.s fielding the 105,000-plus cases a year in Manhattan seldom had enough information to make nuanced decisions about bail, charges, pleas or sentences. They were narrowly focused on the facts of cases in front of them, not on the people committing the crimes. They couldn’t quickly sort minor delinquents from irredeemably bad apples. They didn’t know what havoc defendants might be wreaking in other boroughs.

Vance divided Manhattan’s 22 police precincts into five areas and assigned a senior assistant D.A. and an analyst to map the crime in each area. CSU staff members met with patrol officers, detectives and Police Department field intelligence officers and asked police commanders to submit a list of each precinct’s 25 worst offenders — so-called crime drivers, whose “incapacitation by the criminal-justice system would have a positive impact on the community’s safety.” Seeded with these initial cases, the CSU built a searchable database that now includes more than 9,000 chronic offenders (PDF), virtually all of whom have criminal records. A large percentage are recidivists who have been repeatedly convicted of grand larceny, one of the top index crimes in Manhattan, but the list also includes active gang members, people whom the D.A. considers “uncooperative witnesses,” and a fluctuating number of violent “priority targets,” which currently stands at 81. “These are people we want to know about if they are arrested,” says Kerry Chicon. “We are constantly adding, deleting, editing and updating the intelligence in the Arrest Alert System. If someone gets out of a gang, or goes to prison for a long time, or moves out of the city or the state, or ages out of being a focus for us, or dies, we edit the system accordingly — we do that all the time.”

“It’s the ‘Moneyball’ approach to crime,” says Chauncey Parker. “The tool is data; the benefit, public safety and justice — whom are we going to put in jail? If you have 10 guys dealing drugs, which one do you focus on? The assistant district attorneys know the rap sheets, they have the police statements like before, but now they know if you lift the left sleeve you’ll find a gang tattoo and if you look you’ll see a scar where the defendant was once shot in the ankle. Some of the defendants are often surprised we know so much about them.”

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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by ikanreed on Thursday December 04 2014, @08:40PM

    by ikanreed (3164) on Thursday December 04 2014, @08:40PM (#122695) Journal

    In order:

    I don't agree. It's never going to be the case that being suspicious is harmful, and thus deserving punishment. As we move towards a system of justice oriented more towards preventing crime and less towards punishing it, there will be more attempt to bring voluntary risk reduction measures to people in situations that predict crime. More addiction treatment targeted at at-risk individuals, more mental health screenings, more targeted poverty reduction programs.

    Awful, but only in international comparison, not intranational. I have every reason to believe it was historically worse. Getting Americans to look at other countries that do better for solutions is hard, politically.

    No, it's really not. Data driven hypotheses can be tested in a way other things can't.

    Because serial offense is the same as skin color? My core argument is that it will actually defray these problems if properly done.

    No. I want to remove unreasonable subjectivity from crime and punishment wherever possible.

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  • (Score: 2) by Jeremiah Cornelius on Thursday December 04 2014, @08:51PM

    by Jeremiah Cornelius (2785) on Thursday December 04 2014, @08:51PM (#122699) Journal

    You are an incurable technophile. ;-)

    You're betting on the pantomime horse...
    • (Score: 2) by ikanreed on Thursday December 04 2014, @08:59PM

      by ikanreed (3164) on Thursday December 04 2014, @08:59PM (#122701) Journal

      I think actually, when applied in government, the word might be "technocrat." Which I am. I absolutely view myself as a technocrat.

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by bucc5062 on Thursday December 04 2014, @09:30PM

    by bucc5062 (699) on Thursday December 04 2014, @09:30PM (#122707)

    Yet the last sentence, which I think has some meat to it was ignored. All this data analysis is great for catching the bad guys on the street getting hauled in, but then what about applying that to white collar crime. A european bank can get caught manipulating the very basic rate upon which all other rates are set and they get a basic slap on the write. US Banks are caught knowingly foreclosing on people who have actually been making payments and the decision makers walk with a 'small fine".

    Those that help perpetuate the increase in class economic inequality are doing as much if not more harm to society then those 10 drug dealers in NYC. Legalize drugs, sure, but start throwing bankers, hedge fund managers, and even CEO in jail for breaking the law and maybe, maybe we'd see a drop in crime overall. When people have more money in their pocket, more opportunity and yes hope, they tend to not want to lose it.

    The more things change, the more they look the same
    • (Score: 2) by nitehawk214 on Friday December 05 2014, @02:43PM

      by nitehawk214 (1304) on Friday December 05 2014, @02:43PM (#122926)

      But I would be surprised if the SEC was not already doing this. What has more statistics generation aimed at it more than the stock market?

      "Don't you ever miss the days when you used to be nostalgic?" -Loiosh
    • (Score: 1) by dry on Saturday December 06 2014, @04:51AM

      by dry (223) on Saturday December 06 2014, @04:51AM (#123108) Journal

      Are you actually suggesting throwing important white people in jail? Communist! The great country of America was founded on the principal of rich white men being able to do whatever they wanted, including owning people and helping themselves to the land that those savages occupied. Next you'll be suggesting that regular people should get the vote.

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by ilPapa on Friday December 05 2014, @12:17AM

    by ilPapa (2366) Subscriber Badge on Friday December 05 2014, @12:17AM (#122791) Journal

    if properly done

    And you trust a system that has more people in prison than any other developed country to do it "properly"?

    This summary is nonsense. Crime is going down because we've got a huge percentage of the population locked behind bars. And the ones that are left have been put on notice that the police now have a license to kill you for minor infractions.

    Law enforcement is the ultimate bureaucracy. Imagine the Department of Education or the EPA with guns and bad attitudes.

    You are still welcome on my lawn.
    • (Score: 2) by dry on Saturday December 06 2014, @04:55AM

      by dry (223) on Saturday December 06 2014, @04:55AM (#123109) Journal

      Crime has been steadily dropping in all the developed world. Some say that it correlates with not using lead in gasoline, paint and such.
      Still there are a large number of people (and politicians) who believe it's from being tough on crime and if we get even tougher then crime will continue to drop. The threat of life in jail isn't enough of a deterrent but 1000 years is.

  • (Score: 2) by urza9814 on Friday December 05 2014, @06:09PM

    by urza9814 (3954) on Friday December 05 2014, @06:09PM (#122983) Journal

    It's never going to be the case that being suspicious is harmful, and thus deserving punishment.

    Tell that to Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Rumain Brisbon, Aiyana Jones.....

    I get it, it's more complicated and nuanced than that. But people *today* are punished constantly for merely being suspicious, and there are unfortunately many, many people in our society who actively defend that every time it happens. You can't say "it will never be the case" when it is *already* the case. We already have pre-crime programs. What do you think was the point of Stop & Frisk? The problem isn't that these might be created in some dystopian future. The problem is that they might *continue*.

    • (Score: 2) by ikanreed on Friday December 05 2014, @07:09PM

      by ikanreed (3164) on Friday December 05 2014, @07:09PM (#122995) Journal

      deserving being the operative word there.

      • (Score: 2) by urza9814 on Monday December 08 2014, @01:08PM

        by urza9814 (3954) on Monday December 08 2014, @01:08PM (#123707) Journal

        Well, *we* may not think those people deserved what happened to them, but the US legal system clearly does. And that's what matters in this context.

        • (Score: 2) by ikanreed on Monday December 08 2014, @07:32PM

          by ikanreed (3164) on Monday December 08 2014, @07:32PM (#123824) Journal

          And again, our legal system has numerous failings, that more robust data driven criminology could mitigate.