Experts to create predictive tool to tackle hate crime in Los Angeles

September 22, 2016, Cardiff University

Experts from Cardiff University are developing a statistical tool that uses social media to make real-time predictions of where hate crimes may occur.

The team, from the University's Social Data Science Lab, will be using Los Angeles County as a test bed for their study, thanks to over $800,000 in funding from the US Department of Justice.

It is the first time that social media has been used in the United States to create predictive policing models of .

Over the next three years, the team will be closely scrutinising data taken from Twitter and cross-referencing this with reported hate crimes in Los Angeles to develop markers, or signatures, which could indicate if, and where, a hate crime is likely to take place at a certain point in time, and then enable police officers to intervene.

The term hate crime is used to describe a prejudice-motivated crime, often violent, which occurs when a perpetrator targets a victim because of his or her affiliation to a social group, such as their sex, ethnicity, disability or religion.

According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), in 2012 an estimated 293,800 nonfatal violent and property hate crime victimizations occurred in the United States.

UK official data shows that there were 52,528 hate crimes recorded by the police in England and Wales in 2014/15, an increase of 18 per cent compared with 2013/14.

Previous research from the Social Data Science Lab has already shown that Twitter data can be used to identify hot spots, such as certain states or cities, where has occurred but where hate crime has not been reported. One example is an area when recent immigrants may be unlikely to report crime due to fear of deportation.

Professor Matt Williams, from the University's School of Social Science, said: "Developing a better understanding of hateful sentiments online and their relationship with crime on the streets could push law enforcement to better identify, report and address hate crimes that are occurring offline.

"The insights provided by our work will help US localities to design policies to address specific hate crime issues unique to their jurisdiction and allow service providers to tailor their services to the needs of victims, especially if those victims are members of an emerging category of hate crime targets."

The Los Angeles Police Department has a history of incorporating progressive and forward-thinking methods into their policing, having previously used mathematical models to predict other areas of crime, which have been shown to successfully lower crime rates.

The huge volumes of data that social media now generates has provided researchers with large swathes of information that can be used to identify emerging patterns and trends in a number of areas across society, including crime.

Dr Pete Burnap, from the University's School of Computer Science and Informatics, said: "This is the first study in the United States to use data in predictive policing models of hate crime. Predictive policing is a proactive law enforcement model that has become more common partially due to the advent of advanced analytics such as data mining and machine-learning methods.

"New analytic approaches and the ability to process very large data sets have increased the accuracy of predictive models over traditional crime analysis methods and this project will evaluate if police departments can leverage these new data and techniques to reduce hate crimes."

Explore further: Communities must play greater role in police hate crime training after rise in incidents

Related Stories

Hate crime is a daily reality

September 24, 2013

Hate crime is still a daily reality for many people in Wales, according to a new study by the University and Race Equality First.

Recommended for you

Excavators find tombs buried in Bolivia 500 years ago

November 17, 2018

Archaeologists say they found tombs at a Bolivian quarry containing remains from more than 500 years ago that give an insight into the interaction of various peoples with the expanding Inca empire.

Preventing chemical weapons as sciences converge

November 15, 2018

Alarming examples of the dangers from chemical weapons have been seen recently in the use of industrial chemicals and the nerve agent sarin against civilians in Syria, and in the targeted assassination operations using VX ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.