Chicago’s Big Security Shoulders

By Teresa Anderson

Via CLEAR, the police can identify “troubled buildings,” which are ranked according to arrests, incidents, and gang activity. Local high schools are also ranked this way.

Approximately 3,200 members of the public access the system through a portal. The public can view crime mapping statistics and incidents according to location as well as identify where sex offenders and gun offenders reside. Members of the public may supply anonymous tips through it as well. The system receives thousands of tips and community concerns each year.

CLEAR has become an integral part of policing in Chicago, according to Lewin. For example, police found a lottery ticket at the scene of a murder and wondered whether the numbers on the ticket might be relevant. Running the numbers through CLEAR, officers found the address of a known criminal, whose DNA matched that collected at the scene.

In addition to tracking crime, the system tracks the performance of officers, keeping data on use-of-force, complaints, arrests, and injuries. Each officer’s data is compared to other officers on similar beats. This data is analyzed for patterns that might indicate a problem. For example, the system tracks the ratio of complaints to arrests. “This can indicate overuse of force,” explains Lewin.

The first version of CLEAR was launched citywide in 1996, and a state version and a regional version have been unveiled since then. Also, the system is being updated as technological innovations make greater analysis possible. For example, the city is now rolling out a video analytics feature that will allow surveillance cameras to be used to help the police identify instances of loitering. A facial matching program is also near completion. It will grab still frames from video to compare against the city’s mug shot database.




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