Griffith University researchers are analysing more than one million Queensland crimes to forecast where future crime hotspots are likely to occur.
The research is made possible by an Australian-first $1 million research facility – the Social Analytics Lab (SAL), launched by the Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Services Mark Ryan and Queensland Police Service Commissioner Ian Stewart APM.
The custom-built research facility combines high-performance computing facilities with industry standard security.
It allows sensitive, de-identified administrative data to be stored and studied using advanced analytics to reveal patterns and insights from large complex government agency data.
In one of the first projects to be run in the lab, researchers will use crime data recorded over the past 10 years to identify patterns in burglary and car crime that could inform operational policing.
Predictive policing expert Dr Daniel Birks said burglary and car crime, two types of crime affecting many people, cost the community an estimated $2.5 billion annually.
“Building on recent international studies, our research explores the use of mathematical models that use previous crime patterns to forecast locations and times of future crime risk,” he said.
“These tools have the potential to support police and their crime-reduction partners in proactively deploying resources to those areas considered most at risk of crime in the immediate future.”
He said research had previously shown that after an initial burglary, the risk of a second burglary increases significantly, not only for the original victim, but also to those who live nearby – with this heightened risk rapidly dissipating over time.
“This could be because offenders or their peers are returning to areas where they were previously successful, or there may be inherent characteristics of an area that make it attractive to offenders in general.
“Most importantly, by measuring and understanding this diffusion of risk, we can empower those involved in crime prevention with the tools to help them stay one step ahead of crime.”
Attending the launch, Queensland Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said the great benefit of the lab was not only researchers having access to the crime data but also other datasets so they can start predicting behaviours.
“We can look at a person who is a career criminal and then work backwards to find out why that person entered into the criminal justice system.
“The benefit of that is we can spend money in a proactive way. We know that for every dollar that is spent in preventing crime, it saves us $10 in actually responding to it.”
An Australian-first, the SAL joins Griffith research with facilities at the Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science, University College London and the Institute for Canadian Urban Research Studies, Simon Fraser University, Canada.
“This newly forged network of secure facilities provides unprecedented opportunities for collaboration among leading international researchers and practitioners,’’ says Associate Professor Michael Townsley, head of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice.
“Building on Griffith’s international reputation for outstanding social science and public policy research the SAL positions Griffith and its partners at the forefront of impact-driven social science research.”
Current data holdings include:
Queensland Police Service Collaboration: This collaboration between QPS and SAL provides researchers with access to 10 years of crime incident data occurring in Queensland between 2008 and 2017.
Queensland Linkage Project: This project includes linked longitudinal administrative data from six Queensland government departments. These de-identified data include Births, Deaths and Marriages, child safety, youth justice, police, courts, corrections, hospital admissions and mental health.