Baltimore set to renew contract with predictive policing group, citing violence declines in targeted areas

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.

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.

“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.

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.

krector@baltsun.com

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