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Data Release: Mapping Search Warrants in Chicago


posted by: lucyparsonslabs and matt_chapman

The Chicago Police Department executed an average of six search warrants per day over a five year period. Approximately 40% of those did not lead to an arrest. A data analysis by Lucy Parsons Labs shows a startling lack of control in executing warrants by the police department with troubling human rights implications.

In 2019, CBS News has reported that Chicago police have pointed guns at children and routinely raid the wrong locations, sometimes multiple times. Given the high number of search warrants executed a day, this data raises questions about how much latitude judges are giving when cops describe the “persons, houses and effects” they want to search.

Today’s data release, available on GitHub, is the result of multiple Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests sent by Lucy Parsons Labs over the past year. CPD initially replied to us that they maintain no responsive records when we requested this data.

Critically absent from this data are unexecuted search warrants. Chicago police claim they do not track these warrants.

Our analysis found that from 2012 to 2017, over 45 percent of all executed search warrants did not result in any arrests. In one neighborhood, North Lawndale, three of the four warrants executed saw no arrest.

The search warrants clustered in predominantly Black and poor neighborhoods, repeating similar patterns found in our asset forfeiture investigation and stop and frisk data set.

As noted today’s article at Reason.com, “a lack of an accompanying arrest is not necessarily an indicator of a botched raid. For example, the police may obtain warrants to search phones and other electronics”. The requirement to obtain a warrant to search a cell phone follows the Riley v California Supreme Court decision.

Working alongside FOIA expert and data scientist Matt Chapman, Lucy Parsons Labs is also providing a data visualization tool, allowing the public to analyze the data. It can be viewed online and includes census-tract level of detail. In a statement, Chapman said:

Our hope with this app is that it helps others understand the deep seeded dynamics of inequality across Chicago even just a little bit more. We have submitted a series of FOIA requests for significantly more search warrant information. Once Chicago gives us the records from those requests, we’ll be able to add more to the application and making it that much more useful.

The application lets viewers analyze the activities of the police in their neighborhood by filtering the data by specific wards in Chicago. Feedback and suggestions are welcome at info @ lucyparsonslabs DOT com.

This data helps deepen the public’s understanding of the criminal system in keeping with the mission of the Chicago Data Collaborative, of which LPL is a member.

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