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.
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 descri
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University of Michigan Health System