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Could a Computer on the Police Beat Prevent Violence?

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Identifying tough parts of town on a map

The model created from police data by UofM researchers produced a detailed map of violent crime hot spots.


An interdisciplinary team of University of Michigan researchers used police data to demonstrate how computer models can help identify violent areas.

The researchers combined and analyzed information in small geographic units on police reports, drug offenses, alcohol availability, education levels, and employment rates. The model produced a detailed map of violent crime hot spots and a better understanding of factors that create the right environment for violence.

"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 Michigan professor Robert Lipton.

Although Lipton and his colleagues have studied the relationship between alcohol availability and violence for years, the new research adds 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.

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

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