Historical Roots of Predictive Policing [...]

To begin to answer that question, one must trace the disparate histories of predictive policing’s component parts through a series of crises and conjunctions. Actuarial techniques like Northpointe’s (or the older Level of Service Inventory–Revised, another recidivism-risk-assessment battery) emerge out of insurance companies’ demand for risk management during the late 19th and early 20th centuries’ chronic economic crises.

Two more pieces of the puzzle, biometrics and organized surveillance, emerge in the 18th and 19th centuries out of the shifting tactics for maintaining white supremacy in both southern slave plantations and northern cities. Simone Browne, for example, has shown that New York’s colonial “lantern laws,” which forbade unaccompanied black people from walking the streets at night without carrying a lit lantern, were originally instituted because of white fear of antislavery insurrection.

And lastly, statistical techniques of crime prediction come down to us through the early-20th century Chicago School of sociology, which swapped cruder theories of physically inherent racial difference for more refined spatio-cultural theories of industrial capitalist “social disorganization.” These shored up sexuality and the color line as the key arbiters of cultural degradation, as in studies positing a “culture of poverty” that generates criminality. This is Roderick Ferguson’s point in Aberrations in Black when he argues that “the Chicago School’s construction of African American neighborhoods as outside heteropatriarchal normalization underwrote municipal government’s regulation of the South Side, making African American neighborhoods the point at which both a will to knowledge and a will to exclude intersected.” (Source)

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