Washington Law Review


Policing by Numbers: Big Data and the Fourth Amendment

March 01, 2014 | 89 Wash. L. Rev. 35

The age of “big data” has come to policing. In Chicago, police officers are paying particular attention to members of a “heat list”: those identified by a risk analysis as most likely to be involved in future violence. In Charlotte, North Carolina, the police have compiled foreclosure data to generate a map of high-risk areas that are likely to be hit by crime. In New York City, the N.Y.P.D. has partnered with Microsoft to employ a “Domain Awareness System” that collects and links information from sources like CCTVs, license plate readers, radiation sensors, and informational databases. In Santa Cruz, California, the police have reported a dramatic reduction in burglaries after relying upon computer algorithms that predict where new burglaries are likely to occur. The Department of Homeland Security has applied computer analytics to Twitter feeds to find words like “pipe bomb,” “plume,” and “listeria.”

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