Early each morning, computers spit out maps of Los Angeles, marked with red squares where a complex algorithm has judged that property crimes are most likely to occur.
As police officers patrol the streets, they keep these areas in mind, perhaps taking a detour to pass through on the way to a call, or warning people not to leave valuables in their cars.
But so-called predictive policing and other ways that the Los Angeles Police Department uses data to fight crime are sounding alarm bells for civil liberty and privacy groups who engaged in a heated debate with department brass at a Police Commission meeting Tuesday.
The activists lambasted the methods, which identify crime hotspots as well as “chronic offenders” who are likely to commit crimes, as biased against blacks and Latinos, with some calling for them to be abolished.
The crime statistics that fuel the computer models could be skewed by racial bias with the result that more policing is concentrated on Blacks and Latinos, many said.
“Data is a weapon and will always be used to criminalize Black, brown and poor people,” said Jamie Garcia of the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, which released a report in May critiquing the department’s data policing techniques.
Members of the coalition held signs with messages such as, “Crime Data is Racist” and “Data Driven Evidence Based Policing: Pseudoscience.”