Pre-Crime | Chicago Reader

Pre-Crime

Philip K. Dick’s 1956 sci-fi story "Minority Report" predicted a world in which computers use behavioral data to forecast criminal activity; as this German documentary reveals, we're living in that world now. Directors Matthias Heeder and Monika Hielscher open in Chicago, where they visit the Crime Prevention Information Center, a Dark Knight-style surveillance headquarters created by the police department and the Illinois Institute of Technology, and interview Robert McDaniel, a private citizen who says he wound up on the city's algorithm-generated "heat list" simply because his friend was a crime victim. Among the cool new software programs keeping us safe and/or oppressed are PredPol and HunchLab, which map high-crime areas, and Beware, which identifies people with suspicious social media activity. Advocates of the technology call it proactive policing, detractors call it racial profiling, and critics point out that the initial data is already skewed because it represents only reported crimes. Most people don't know anything about the practice, which is the main reason it might be here to stay. In English and subtitled French and German.

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