Big Data is the 2.5 quintillion bytes of information created every day through digital interactions such as consumer purchases, social media posts, and government databases. “Our system lets police prioritize risky places before crimes emerge and thoughtfully implement risk-mitigation activities. It’s crime forecasting with a focus on places, not people,” Kennedy said.

Although police agencies have sought ways to determine where crime hotspots might occur before they happen, the technology and data to make that kind of crime mapping possible has only recently become available to make it a reality.

“We operationalized data which was once unable to merge and couldn’t be used or synthesized,” Caplan said. “Conceptually the idea that environment matters with crime has been available, but the data has not been readily accessible.” Not only does the software allow police agencies to predict where specific crimes might occur due to the surrounding environment, it gives them the tools to mitigate potential crime before it gets out of hand.

The project has lasted more than two years and started as a way to add to determine crime hotspots without using census data, which becomes inaccurate very soon after it is completed. “Locations tend to facilitate crime even though the people that occupy them change over time,” Caplan said, adding “the environments that make certain places suitable for crimes don’t change much over time.”

Two versions of the Risk Terrain Modeling Diagnostics Utility are available for commercial use. The first, made free by Rutgers to educators, police agencies and non-profit organizations, and allows the user to input data to determine potential crime hotspots, but does not generate a map – a feature reserved for the professional version, according to Kennedy.

Peter Sclafani is an editorial intern at eCampus News.


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