(Looking) Back to the Future: using space-time patterns to better predict the location of street crime
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Crime analysts attempt to identify regularities in police recorded crime data with a central view of disrupting the patterns found. One common method for doing so is hotspot mapping, focusing attention on spatial clustering as a route to crime reduction (Chainey & Ratcliffe, 2005; Clarke & Eck, 2003). Despite the widespread use of this analytical technique, evaluation tools to assess its ability to accurately predict spatial patterns have only recently become available to practitioners (Chainey, Tompson, & Uhlig, 2008). Crucially, none has examined this issue from a spatio-temporal standpoint. Given that the organisational nature of policing agencies is shift based, it is common-sensical to understand crime problems at this temporal sensitivity, so there is an opportunity for resources to be deployed swiftly in a manner that optimises prevention and detection. This paper tests whether hotspot forecasts can be enhanced when time-of-day information is incorporated into the analysis. Using street crime data, and employing an evaluative tool called the Predictive Accuracy Index (PAI), we found that the predictive accuracy can be enhanced for particular temporal shifts, and this is primarily influenced by the degree of spatial clustering present. Interestingly, when hotspots shrank (in comparison with the all-day hotspots), they became more concentrated, and subsequently more predictable. This is meaningful in practice; for if crime is more predictable during specific timeframes, then response resources can be used intelligently to reduce victimisation.
International Journal of Police Science and Management
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Law and Legal Studies not elsewhere classified