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Researchers use Twitter to predict crime

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Posted April 22, 2014
File picture shows an official Twitter account on a smartphone
File picture shows an official Twitter account on a smartphone

Hidden in the Twittersphere are nuggets of information that could prove useful to crime fighters—even before a crime has been committed.

Researchers at the University of Virginia demonstrated  could predict certain kinds of  if the correct analysis is applied.

A research paper published in the scientific journal Decision Support Systems last month said the analysis of geo-tagged tweets can be useful in predicting 19 to 25 kinds of crimes, especially for offenses such as stalking, thefts and certain kinds of assault.

The results are surprising, especially when one considers that people rarely tweet about crimes directly, said lead researcher Matthew Gerber of the university’s Predictive Technology Lab.

Gerber said even tweets that have no direct link to crimes may contain information about activities often associated with them.

“What people are tweeting about are their routine activities,” Gerber told AFP. “Those routine activities take them into environments where crime is likely to happen.

“So if I tweet about getting drunk tonight, and a lot of people are talking about getting drunk, we know there are certain crimes associated with those things that produce crimes. It’s indirect.”

For the study, Gerber and his colleagues analyzed tweets from the city of Chicago tagged to certain neighborhoods—measured by individual square kilometers—and the city’s crime database.

Read more at: Phys.org

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