Sociologist to Discuss Model for Predicting Crime

Robert Nash Parker will discuss results of collaboration with Indio police that reduced burglaries

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Sociologist Robert Nash Parker will discuss the results of a collaboration with the Indio Police Department that reduced the number of burglaries in that city.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Can we predict crime? UC Riverside sociologist Robert Nash Parker will discuss the results of a unique collaboration with the Indio Police Department that reduced the number of burglaries in the Coachella Valley city on Tuesday, May 20.

Parker, professor of sociology and senior researcher at UCR’s Presley Center for Crime and Justice Studies, worked with Indio police to produce a computer model that predicts, by census block group, where burglaries are likely to occur. His talk, “Can We Predict Crime? The Case of Burglary in Indio, CA, and the Smart Policing Initiative,” begins at 2:10 p.m. in the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences Interdisciplinary Building, Room 1113. It is free and open to the public. Parking permits may be purchased at the kiosk on West Campus Drive at the University Avenue entrance to the campus.

The presentation is part of the Presley Center Colloquium Series. The center is affiliated with the UCR School of Public Policy.

Parker said the project took a unique approach to the problem of burglary.

Robert Nash Parker

Robert Nash Parker

“Although many law enforcement agencies engage in activities that can be characterized as preventative, in the vast majority of situations policing is a reactive activity; that is, a crime occurs, police investigate, and they attempt to apprehend the suspect or suspects,” he explained. “We asked the question, ‘Could we become more proactive, as opposed to reactive, in law enforcement? Given developments in the management of large-scale databases that are collected and managed by modern law enforcement agencies, and the advances in statistical modeling in criminological research, could we utilize ‘big’ data and sophisticated modeling techniques to predict where crime is most likely to occur?’”

If so, it might be possible for law enforcement agencies to target prevention activities that could disrupt the causes of crime before the crime happens, he said.

The research project — funded with a four-year, $210,617 grant from the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) Smart Policing Initiative (SPI) — demonstrated that the predictive model does a significantly better job of predicting where burglaries will occur a year in advance compared to commonsense alternatives, Parker said. Using his model, the Indio department was better able to anticipate hot spots of criminal activity and developed interventions to address the problem. The result was an 8 percent decline in burglaries in the first nine months of 2013.

In a letter to Indio Police Chief Richard P. Twiss, BJA Director Denise O’Donnell said the collaboration between UC Riverside and the police department “serves as a model for other SPI sites to follow.” The initiative supports innovative efforts by police agencies to solve serious crime problems in their communities.

Media Contact

Tel: (951) 827-7847
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Additional Contacts

Robert Nash Parker
Tel: (951) 827-3542

Mark Manalang
Tel: (951) 827-5656

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