Crime Mapping and the Fourth Amendment: Redrawing “High-Crime Areas”
Andrew Guthrie Ferguson
Volume 63, Issue 1, 179-232
Crime-mapping technology has the potential to reshape Fourth Amendment protections in designated “high-crime areas.” In Illinois v. Wardlow the Supreme Court held that presence in a high-crime area is one of only two factors necessary for creating reasonable suspicion to stop an individual. Since Wardlow, thousands of federal and state cases have used the term “high-crime area,” yet only a handful of courts have considered how to define it. New crime-mapping technologies can now address that definitional problem. Crime-mapping technologies can collect and analyze crime statistics so that police districts can produce almost perfect information about the level, rate, and geographic location of crimes in any given area. The result: police can define official “high-crime areas” for Fourth Amendment purposes.Crime-mapping technology raises significant Fourth Amendment questions. Does crime-mapping technology alter the existing Fourth Amendment reasonable suspicion analysis? Will this technology create an implicit high-crime area exception to the Fourth Amendment? How will this technology effect police-citizen encounters and liberty interests in officially designated high-crime areas? This Article addresses these questions in an effort to reevaluate and rethink the concept of the high-crime area as understood by the courts. Tracing the history and practice of crime-mapping technology and its effect on Fourth Amendment doctrine, this Article proposes a new framework and redefinition of the term that is both informed by existing crime-mapping technologies and consistent with Fourth Amendment principles.