Criminal Justice

Letter will advise Chicagoans on 'heat list' of violent-crime consequences

About 20 Chicagoans on a “heat list” are getting a hand-delivered letter from police warning about the consequences of violent crime.

The pilot program targets those in one west side police district who are most likely to shoot others or become victims, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. The letters will warn recipients that they face the most serious charges possible if they are arrested for a violent crime.

According to this police directive, the letters will be specific to the individuals, with information on prior arrests and known associates. Among those who may be getting letters are previous victims of violent crime who did not cooperate with police and violent repeat offenders.

In the future, police plan to bring along “influentials” such as coaches or pastors as they deliver the letters.

The heat list idea comes from the work of Yale University professor Andrew Papachristos, the Sun-Times says. He studied murders on Chicago’s west side from 2005 to 2010 and found that 70 percent of the slayings were in a social network of 1,600 people, out of a population of 80,000.

Papachristos wrote about Chicago’s strategy to reduce violence in an article last year in the Huffington Post. He said the city began conducting “gang audits” in 2010 to learn more about neighborhood gangs and “who’s got conflict with whom.” The audits resulted in a series of meetings that put gangs on notice that the violence needs to stop and future slayings will lead to a police crackdown on the entire gang.

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