Math Model Can Help Police Identify, Combat Crime Hot Spots


For years. cities have tried to predict where criminals will strike by studying neighborhood crime trends, using what has happened in the past to determine what might happen in the future. Now, reports the Florida Times-Union, researchers believe they have developed a math model to help police identify and eliminate emerging crime hot spots. “We can actually define where you get hot spots and where you won’t,” said Jeffrey Brantingham, a UCLA associate professor of anthropology who has been working to define crime patterns.

The research, called predictive analysis, is an area of wide interest now, said Joe Ryan, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office crime analysis administrator. Ryan’s unit does some of that now, collecting information including vacant housing numbers to bus stops and shopping center locations, then applying that to other parts of the city that are similar in makeup. “It’s community data, it’s other types of data that we can look at in relation to crime events and come up with our own types of models,” Ryan said. The UCLA work is intriguing, but the next step will be critical, he said. It is important that the research, which is based on data from Los Angeles and Long Beach police departments, can be replicated in other cities, Ryan said. At the heart of the system is the development of mathematical formulas that fold social patterns of criminals and victims together with other conditions to show whether an area is a brew pot for crime. By digging deeply into the data, the system improves on a long-standing approach that uses historical information about past crimes to predict where criminals are apt to hit next.

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