Your Tweets can help predict crime

University of Virginia Assistant Professor Matthew Gerber has discovered a correlation between Tweets and crime. No, folks arent Tweeting that theyre going to knock over a liquor store. Instead, by looking at the GPS coordinates attributed to Tweets as well as assessing a heat map of popular locations, police can predict where crime is most likely to happen.

My initial hypothesis was that there would be no correlation between Twitter use and crime. After all, people dont share with the world that they intend to or have just committed an offence, told Gerber. What they do share are things like social events or jaunts that could lead to criminal activity.

Gerber collected 1.5 million tweets in the Chicago area between January and March 2013. He also grabbed crime records over the same period. He divided out the Tweets based on geographical location and looked at the crime data for each area as well as the type of Tweet sports cheers, restaurant mentions, etc. to see if Tweet density correlated to crime. It did. The method could accurately predict 19 out of 25 crime types.

Some cities that utilize such techniques as a basis for resource apportioning have considered dramatic decreases in crime, said Gerber. Regrettably he cannot yet say why Tweets predict crime on a causal level but it seems to be working and hes working with police departments in Chicago and New York City to help build out the system.

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