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Predictions Put Into Practice: a Quasi-experimental Evaluation of Chicago's Predictive Policing Pilot

NCJ Number
Journal of Experimental Criminology Volume: 12 Issue: 3 Dated: September 2016 Pages: 347-371
J. Saunders; P. Hunt; J. S. Hollywood
Date Published
September 2016
27 pages

This study identified the impact of a pilot program on individual-level and city-level gun violence, and tested possible drivers of results.


In 2013, the Chicago Police Department conducted a pilot of a predictive policing program designed to reduce gun violence. The program included development of a Strategic Subjects List (SSL) of people estimated to be at highest risk of gun violence who were then referred to local police commanders for a preventive intervention. The SSL consisted of 426 people estimated to be at highest risk of gun violence. ARIMA models were used to estimate impacts on city-level homicide trends, and propensity-score matching to estimate the effects of being placed on the list on five measures related to gun violence. A mediation analysis and interviews with police leadership and COMPSTAT meeting observations helped in understanding what is driving results. Individuals on the SSL were not more or less likely to become a victim of a homicide or shooting than the comparison group, and this was further supported by city-level analysis. The treated group was more likely to be arrested for a shooting. It is not clear how the predictions should be used in the field. One potential reason why being placed on the list resulted in an increased chance of being arrested for a shooting is that some officers may have used the list as leads to closing shooting cases. The results provide for a discussion about the future of individual-based predictive policing programs. (Publisher abstract modified)