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A Baltimore Police Department cruiser on Aug. 11, 2017, at the scene of a shooting on York Road.
A Baltimore Police Department cruiser on Aug. 11, 2017, at the scene of a shooting on York Road. (Jerry Jackson / The Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore’s spending board on Wednesday will consider a police department request to extend a program that uses “predictive policing” models to target gun violence on the east and west sides of the city.

The police department is asking the Board of Estimates to approve $635,000 to extend for another year a contract with Strategic Focus LLC, a company led by Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Sean Malinowski.

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It’s responsible for designing and providing technical and analytical support for the city’s “Strategic Decision Support Centers.” Inside such centers, computers help predict retaliatory shootings and transmit reports of gunfire to patrol officers — often before 911 calls come in. Police district leaders and analysts rework deployment strategies based on data flowing through the centers.

Malinowski said he is looking forward to continuing the work.

In crunching data around homicides and non-fatal shootings in recent months, Baltimore police officials determined a trend: Whenever a homicide or non-fatal shooting occurs in the city, there is a “high likelihood” that another will occur within hours.

“I think there’s promise in it,” he said. He declined to comment further, citing the pending contract.

Some civil liberties advocates have raised concerns about the use of data to reach conclusions about crime in cities such as Baltimore, fearing it could lead to large deployments of officers to traditionally over-policed neighborhoods that are also disproportionately black and poor.

But many residents in those neighborhoods have said they want a more responsive police department, and the department has defended the approach as successful. Since the centers opened in June in the Eastern and Western districts, “both districts have seen an overall reduction in crime, specifically in homicides and nonfatal shootings,” according to the spending board’s agenda.

In the Eastern District, there were 55 homicides and 90 shootings in 2017, compared to 43 homicides and 98 shootings in 2018. In the Western District, there were 48 homicides and 127 shootings in 2017, compared to 50 homicides and 99 shootings in 2018.

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh has recruited the architect of predictive policing in Los Angeles and Chicago. “His work has greatly changed how things are done in Chicago, and the early signs are encouraging."

The program has also been credited with declines in gun violence in Chicago, another city where Malinowski set up shop.

Under the proposed Baltimore contract, Malinowski’s team will continue to provide technical assistance to the police, and provide “daily, weekly and monthly crime briefings, anti-crime mission dissemination protocols, patrol deployment strategies, crime reduction performance benchmarks” and other advice.

“It is the mission of the department to continue this work of providing technical assistance, training, technology, subject matter research expertise to assist in crime-fighting strategies aimed at reducing gun violence,” the agenda states.

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