Could a computer on the police beat prevent violence?

Detailed analysis of drugs, alcohol & crimes across a city could help target prevention, U-M study finds.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — 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.

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.

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Source: University of Michigan Health System


Robert Lipton, U-M Medical School
Anthony Braga, Harvard University
Xiaowen Yang, MIT
Jason Goldstick, U-M statistician
Manya Newton, M.D., U-M emergency medicine doctor 
Melissa Rura, Ph.D., Injury Center research analyst