Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Could a computer on the police beat prevent violence?

Date:
February 18, 2013
Source:
University of Michigan Health System
Summary:
As cities work to reduce violence in tight budget times, new research shows how they might be able to target their efforts and police attention on areas prone to violence – with the help of high-powered computers and loads of data on crime, alcohol availability and drug markets.

A detailed analysis of drugs, alcohol and crimes across a city could help target prevention, a U-M study finds.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Michigan Health System

As cities across America work to reduce violence in tight budget times, new research shows how they might be able to target their efforts and police attention -- with the help of high-powered computers and loads of data.

Related Articles


In a newly published paper, University of Michigan Medical School researchers and their colleagues have used real police data from Boston to demonstrate the promise of computer models in zeroing in on violent areas.

They combined and analyzed information in small geographic units, on police reports, drug offenses, and alcohol availability at stores, bars and restaurants, as well as the education levels, employment and other attributes of the people who live there.

The result: a detailed map of violent crime "hot spots," and a better understanding of factors that create the right climate for violence. Both could help a city's leaders and police focus resources on the areas where they can do the most good.

The findings, made using funding from the National Institutes of Health, are published online in the American Journal of Public Health.

With the growing availability of data from local, state and federal sources, the team says the approach could be applied to any city or metropolitan area. It can show which micro-environments -- down to blocks and intersections -- need most attention.

In fact, they are currently preparing the same analysis for the city of Flint, Mich., which unlike Boston has some of the nation's highest violent crime rates. Victims of that violence often end up in a hospital emergency room staffed by U-M doctors.

"This approach allows us to find predictors of violence that aren't just related to an individual's predisposition -- but rather, allow us to study people in places and a social environment," says Robert Lipton, Ph.D., lead author and an associate professor of emergency medicine at the U-M Medical School.

Lipton, who describes himself as a geographical epidemiologist, and several of his co-authors are members of the U-M Injury Center, which has federal funding to study and test ways to reduce injuries of all kinds.

Researchers have studied the relationship between alcohol availability and violence for years. But the new paper adds several new facets: arrests for drug possession and dealing, and citizen calls to 911 about drug use, as well as the broader geographic factors surrounding each type of establishment where alcohol is sold.

Details from state liquor board licenses, police records and the U.S. Census Bureau all factored into the analysis. Over time, other types of data could be added -- so that researchers and police can see the impact of any factor that might contribute to violent behavior.

The goal: to help policy makers and police identify areas that have higher rates of risk factors that may combine to produce violence.

The density of liquor stores or alcohol-serving bars and restaurants alone isn't enough to explain violence patterns -- the new paper shows that it's much more complex than that.

"Why are two areas of a city, which seem to be the same across typical demographic factors, different in their level of violence? We need to become more nuanced in understanding these relationships," says Lipton, who is also a member of the Prevention Research Center at the U-M School of Public Health.

The new research, begun when Lipton was at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston, involved Anthony Braga, a Harvard University criminologist who is chief policy advisor to the Boston police commissioner, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist Xiaowen Yang. Co-authors also include U-M statistician Jason Goldstick, Ph.D., U-M emergency medicine doctor Manya Newton, M.D., MPH, and Injury Center research analyst Melissa Rura, Ph.D.

The analysis of Boston data may help local authorities -- while also helping the U-M researchers test their models and theories. Even with Boston's relatively low violent crime rate, the researchers found they could show how place-based factors influence crime rates.

The study examined 2006 data on homicides and aggravated assault incidents, drug arrests and 911 citizen emergency calls from the Boston Police Department along with 2000 U.S. census data and 2009 alcohol outlet data from the Massachusetts Alcohol Beverage Control Commission.

Results from the study indicate that types and densities of alcohol outlets were directly related to violent crimes despite the fact that alcohol outlets are typically viewed as locations in which other population or environmental factors, such as poverty or prostitution, relate to the violence.

The study also shows that drug possession, rather than drug distribution, has a positive relationship with violent crimes. Features of adjacent areas, and activities occurring there, were also found to be significantly related to violent crime in any given "target" area.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Michigan Health System. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Robert Lipton, Xiaowen Yang, Anthony A. Braga, Jason Goldstick, Manya Newton, Melissa Rura. The Geography of Violence, Alcohol Outlets, and Drug Arrests in Boston. American Journal of Public Health, 2013; e1 DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.2012.300927

Cite This Page:

University of Michigan Health System. "Could a computer on the police beat prevent violence?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 February 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130218164132.htm>.
University of Michigan Health System. (2013, February 18). Could a computer on the police beat prevent violence?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130218164132.htm
University of Michigan Health System. "Could a computer on the police beat prevent violence?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130218164132.htm (accessed October 30, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Techy Tots Are Forefront of London's Baby Show

Techy Tots Are Forefront of London's Baby Show

AP (Oct. 28, 2014) Moms and Dads get a more hands-on approach to parenting with tech-centric products for raising their little ones. (Oct. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cocoa Could Be As Good For Memory As It Is For A Sweet Tooth

Cocoa Could Be As Good For Memory As It Is For A Sweet Tooth

Newsy (Oct. 27, 2014) Researchers have come up with another reason why dark chocolate is good for your health. A substance in the treat can reportedly help with memory. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Five-Year-Olds Learn Coding as Britain Eyes Digital Future

Five-Year-Olds Learn Coding as Britain Eyes Digital Future

AFP (Oct. 27, 2014) Coding has become compulsory for children as young as five in schools across the UK. Making it the first major world economy to overhaul its IT teaching and put programming at its core. Duration: 02:19 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Academic Scandal Shocks UNC

Academic Scandal Shocks UNC

AP (Oct. 23, 2014) A scandal involving bogus classes and inflated grades at the University of North Carolina was bigger than previously reported, a new investigation found. (Oct. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile: iPhone Android Web
    Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins