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posted by janrinok on Saturday July 09, @10:25PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the patterns-of-life dept.

A new computer model uses publicly available data to predict crime accurately in eight U.S. cities:

Advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence have sparked interest from governments that would like to use these tools for predictive policing to deter crime. Early efforts at crime prediction have been controversial, however, because they do not account for systemic biases in police enforcement and its complex relationship with crime and society.

Data and social scientists from the University of Chicago have developed a new algorithm that forecasts crime by learning patterns in time and geographic locations from public data on violent and property crimes. The model can predict future crimes one week in advance with about 90% accuracy.

In a separate model, the research team also studied the police response to crime by analyzing the number of arrests following incidents and comparing those rates among neighborhoods with different socioeconomic status. They saw that crime in wealthier areas resulted in more arrests, while arrests in disadvantaged neighborhoods dropped. Crime in poor neighborhoods didn't lead to more arrests, however, suggesting bias in police response and enforcement.

[...] The new model isolates crime by looking at the time and spatial coordinates of discrete events and detecting patterns to predict future events. It divides the city into spatial tiles roughly 1,000 feet across and predicts crime within these areas instead of relying on traditional neighborhood or political boundaries, which are also subject to bias. The model performed just as well with data from seven other U.S. cities: Atlanta, Austin, Detroit, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Portland, and San Francisco.

This strikes me as something more useful for determining where to improve crime prevention strategies (better lighting, etc.) than it is for catching perps in action.

Journal Reference:
Rotaru, V., Huang, Y., Li, T. et al. Event-level prediction of urban crime reveals a signature of enforcement bias in US cities. Nat Hum Behav (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41562-022-01372-0

This AI Algorithm Supposedly Predicts Big City Crime Before it Happens. Is That a Good Idea?

Claims to predict future crimes a week in advance with 90% accuracy. So much for free will and all that ...

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  • (Score: 2) by Kymation on Saturday July 09, @10:58PM (1 child)

    by Kymation (1047) Subscriber Badge on Saturday July 09, @10:58PM (#1259300)

    The last paragraph of the block quote is repeated

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by Kymation on Sunday July 10, @02:32AM

      by Kymation (1047) Subscriber Badge on Sunday July 10, @02:32AM (#1259350)

      This page was generated by a Mob of Overworked Geeks

      And the effort is very much appreciated. I don't have the free time (or the talent) to do much to help, so I can only applaud those who do.

  • (Score: 4, Touché) by Runaway1956 on Saturday July 09, @11:40PM

    by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Saturday July 09, @11:40PM (#1259312) Homepage Journal

    the cops call it a feature.

    Seriously, what's the point in having a badge and a gun, if you can't use them? The cops know where they can use their guns without reprisal, and they know where they shouldn't use their guns. It's always safe to do a mag dump on a black man in a white neighborhood.

    There is a supply side shortage of pronouns. You will take whatever you are offered.
  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by crm114 on Saturday July 09, @11:45PM (4 children)

    by crm114 (8238) Subscriber Badge on Saturday July 09, @11:45PM (#1259316)

    "The model can predict future crimes one week in advance with about 90% accuracy"

    Isn't that called "pre-crime" in the movie Minority Report?

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by looorg on Sunday July 10, @12:14AM (2 children)

      by looorg (578) on Sunday July 10, @12:14AM (#1259329)

      Yes, more or less. I have not read the paper yet but I put it on the to read list when I get back to the office (cause I'm not paying for something I can read for free at work) but I wouldn't hold my breath bases on the abstract and some other sources. If this actually works like Minority Report it would basically revolutionize Criminology, Law and Law Enforcement. But it won't.

      That said it's not Minority Report levels since it can't really mind read people. As in we won't know who will do the crime. It's more like it's very likely that this will happen now or in a week based on previous factors. In a lot of cases you don't even need this model for that level of prediction. But if they think it will happen then in some best case scenario they will increase patrols in the area. It's not detailed or on the level of sending out Tom Cruise to tranq (or eliminate) people.

      There is also a very real possibility that all this model shows is where police go to make easy busts or pointing out areas with an already high crime rate. So it's not that they are really telling police something they don't already know as they already know which are the high crime areas of the city and well then it's not really a surprise that crime happens there. So they already tend to patrol there. Which means they bust people there which creates more data for the model to show how correct it is and round and round it goes. So while the headline sounds like awesome it's not really as fantastic as one is somewhat led to believe.

      • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 10, @03:18AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 10, @03:18AM (#1259356)

        I think the "predict crime" part will probably be even less impressive than the headline makes it sound once you dig into it. It sounds like they added a temporal variable to the spatial "crime hot spots" maps (and it seems they may have used used higher spatial fidelity than previously). So instead of showing the streets with all the pubs in red on a map for public intoxication and fighting arrests, they can now show that Monday through Thursday there isn't much of that on the street, but it peaks on Friday and Saturday nights, so they've predicted when those infractions are most likely to occur. The researcher is correct in that this might be a useful tool to help police departments optimize their available resources.

      • (Score: 2) by krishnoid on Sunday July 10, @03:51AM

        by krishnoid (1156) on Sunday July 10, @03:51AM (#1259361)

        And while you're at work, you're getting paid to read it! Win-win.

    • (Score: 5, Interesting) by DannyB on Sunday July 10, @02:42PM

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Sunday July 10, @02:42PM (#1259484) Journal

      Isn't that called "pre-crime" in the movie Minority Report?


      However there is an important difference.

      In Minority Report, the prediction was done by an unprovable mysterious subjective group of three psychics or "pre-cogs" as the movie calls them. How could you trust that to be a reliable means of prediction?

      In this case the predictions of crime are made by a computer! It might even be in the cloud! Which would add more credibility and should increase our absolute unwavering trust.

      More than four decades ago I remember what an instructor said in college, after looking at the totally wrong results of a student program printout. He gave us wise advice for the reel whirled: "If it is printed on pin feed green and white stripe paper, people will treat it as gospel truth!"

      You can not have fun on the weak days but you can on the weakened.
  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by jelizondo on Sunday July 10, @12:32AM (2 children)

    by jelizondo (653) Subscriber Badge on Sunday July 10, @12:32AM (#1259331) Journal

    Seems to me that it would be counterproductive: if you increase patrols, for example, in places where crime is predicted, criminals will simply move somewhere else; a thing called the “cockroach effect”, because cockroaches flee wherever it is that you shine a light. It does not mean there are no cockroaches, they simply went somewhere else.

    • (Score: 2) by krishnoid on Sunday July 10, @03:50AM

      by krishnoid (1156) on Sunday July 10, @03:50AM (#1259360)

      Simple enough; you just use the AI to "lead" the targets. Don't patrol where they are, patrol where they're going to be. I doubt even actual cockroaches can outrun an AI targeting system.

    • (Score: 2) by crafoo on Sunday July 10, @11:12AM

      by crafoo (6639) on Sunday July 10, @11:12AM (#1259436)

      That sounds like a complete and utter win to me. Criminals leave your neighborhood, which was the goal.

  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Booga1 on Sunday July 10, @04:03AM (6 children)

    by Booga1 (6333) on Sunday July 10, @04:03AM (#1259365)

    I do have to wonder what sort of data they're feeding it. What sort of things would predict crime a week in advance? I mean, it wouldn't be too hard to scan for things like music festivals and predict increased likelihood of drunk driving incidents. Though, that would probably show up at least a month in advance.

    Maybe restraining orders issued could predict the average time before they're violated and pin a "window" of most probable time for them to be broken. For those a location prediction is a pretty solid bet to be at the home or workplace of the person granted the restraining order. Perhaps prior rises in crimes like a rash of burglaries or catalytic converter thefts where thieves target a neighborhood for a week or two? Heck, around here we have homeless people being swept from place to place. A new homeless camp started growing in a neighborhood? That's a no-brainer to predict reports of crime following soon afterward. How about prison release information? Did the local drug dealer get out of jail last week? How long before he's back dealing drugs in the same places to the same people?

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by FatPhil on Sunday July 10, @09:36AM (5 children)

      by FatPhil (863) <{pc-soylent} {at} {}> on Sunday July 10, @09:36AM (#1259418) Homepage
      I'd also like to know who specific the "predictions" they're getting out are. If it's just "there will be a carjacking within this 1000 ft^2 block within the next 7 days", then it might be right 90% of the time, but it might also be utterly useless 90% of the time.

      Let's play this game, and see if I can beat the AI: I'll even be orders of magnitude more specific than it:

      There'll be a non-lethal shooting within 3 blocks west of Garfield Park in Chicago tomorrow evening - the perpetrator and victim will be black males under the age of 35.

      How did I do?
      Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people; the smallest discuss themselves
      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Immerman on Sunday July 10, @07:13PM (4 children)

        by Immerman (3985) on Sunday July 10, @07:13PM (#1259558)

        I suspect your carjacking example is probably roughly correct - they might not even predict that it will be a carjacking, but just an "incident" of some sort.

        I don't know that even that is useless though - not unless there's an incident there most weeks.

        If you can generate a predictive "heat map" of where crimes are most likely to occur within the next week, you can make sure there's officers close at hand.

        The interesting bit might be to see what effect visibly patrolling those predicted hot spots might have. Would the crimes simply move elsewhere, or would that visible reminder of consequences actually reduce crime rates overall?

        • (Score: 2) by FatPhil on Monday July 11, @09:47AM (3 children)

          by FatPhil (863) <{pc-soylent} {at} {}> on Monday July 11, @09:47AM (#1259713) Homepage
          There already are heat maps of crime - I don't see what new thing this AI brings to the table.
          Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people; the smallest discuss themselves
          • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Monday July 11, @09:10PM (2 children)

            by Immerman (3985) on Monday July 11, @09:10PM (#1259914)

            There are heat maps of the crime that *has already* occurred. That's good for analyzing past performance, and at low enough space-time resolution, long-term trends.

            A heat map of where crime will occur tomorrow, or next week, lets you preemptively allocate resources more optimally, so that you can get more accomplished.

            • (Score: 2) by FatPhil on Tuesday July 12, @07:24AM (1 child)

              by FatPhil (863) <{pc-soylent} {at} {}> on Tuesday July 12, @07:24AM (#1260074) Homepage
              But that's what heat is - it's a statistical property. If you have no reason to conclude things will be different tomorrow, which would be an extraordinary claim that would require extraordinary evidence, the statistics of tomorrow are the statistics of today. So you do have a heatmap for tomorrow, it's the same heatmap you already have in your hands.
              Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people; the smallest discuss themselves
              • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Tuesday July 12, @09:20PM

                by Immerman (3985) on Tuesday July 12, @09:20PM (#1260296)

                If all their AI is predicting is that yesterday's statistics will repeat, then it's worthless and there's no story here.

                If it can actually make useful predictions, then it can generate a predictive heatmap of tomorrows expected activity that is different than today's actual activity.

  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by EEMac on Sunday July 10, @02:27PM

    by EEMac (6423) on Sunday July 10, @02:27PM (#1259482)

    More than forty years ago when I was a city official in the Mayor’s office, I was asked to sit in on a meeting with the precinct captain of a district that included both black middle class and some “Inner city” “ghetto” areas. The meeting consisted of the police officers and several black women who were tired of the lack of law and order in their neighborhood. The captain explained that he had no more resources: he had patrols on overtime as it was. There was nothing to be done. I offered to send some of the Metro units in. These were elite police patrols who strictly enforced the law. I warned the ladies that if we sent them in, they would come down hard on all criminal activity they saw. All of it. The ladies said that was very much what they wanted.

    We sent some of the elite Metro units into the neighborhood. They began enforcing the law as they had been trained: not as community police, but as strict enforcement officers looking for good arrests. This was before Wilson’s “Broken Windows” theory became widely known, but I knew Wilson, and this was in that spirit: you don’t ignore minor infractions because that leads people to think you will ignore major ones.

    The experiment lasted about a month, and the ladies reported they were really surprised at how much better conditions were; but there were black leaders who claimed that the district was being overpoliced. The LA Times talked about the invasion of the police. The mayor told me to get the Metro units out of there. Things went back to where they were before I attempted to intervene. [] posted 20141126 retrieved 20191124

  • (Score: 2) by sea on Sunday July 10, @05:54PM (1 child)

    by sea (86) on Sunday July 10, @05:54PM (#1259524) Homepage Journal

    What this article is saying is that crime in poor neighbourhoods leads to less arrests.

    Poor neighbourhoods are more likely to be black/minority.

    In other words, poor people and minorities are more likely to get off with a warning than to be arrested by the police.

    That is the exact opposite of what the traditional narrative says. This means that, despite what BLM would have us believe, the police are actually more lenient and gentle on minorities than they are on wealthy people.

    • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 11, @10:39AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 11, @10:39AM (#1259723)

      You make the mistake of assuming that the police actually identified the perpetrators, caught them, or even tried to. The phrasing does not suggest that scofflaws were treated kindly in poor neighborhoods. It suggests that when a crime was reported in a rich neighborhood, the cops actually went out and found someone to arrest.

      I.E. if you report a burglary in Ritzville, the cops go and find the burglar. If you report a burglary in Skid Row, the cops tell you to file a report and then don't bother to investigate.