New research found that twitter is helpful to find out crime prior to it happen. Researchers at the University of Virginia demonstrated tweets could predict certain kinds of crimes if the correct analysis is applied.
In the scientific journal Decision Support Systems which was published last month said that the analysis of geo-tagged tweets can be useful in predicting 19 to 25 kinds of crimes, especially for offenses such as stalking, thefts and certain kinds of assault.
Researcher Matthew Gerber of the university's Predictive Technology Lab said "The results are surprising, especially when one considers that people rarely tweet about crimes directly. What people are tweeting about are their routine activities," Gerber told AFP. "Those routine activities take them into environments where crime is likely to happen".
He asure that even tweets that have no direct link to crimes may contain information about activities often associated with them.
"So if I tweet about getting drunk tonight, and a lot of people are talking about getting drunk, we know there are certain crimes associated with those things that produce crimes. It's indirect." He added.
Gerber and his colleagues analyzed tweets from the city of Chicago tagged to certain neighborhoods and the city's crime database for the study.
then they look for the measures which were able to make predictions about areas where certain crimes may occur or possible, which may helpful to police to prevent the onset of crime.
Study said that "This approach allows the analyst to rapidly visualize and identify areas with historically high crime concentrations. "Future crimes often occur in the vicinity of past crimes, making hot-spot maps a valuable crime prediction tool."
This research point out to the scope of other studies showing how tweets can be analyzed to predict elections, disease outbreaks and other important events.
Gerber said Twitter data can be relatively easy to use because tweets are publicly available, and many of them are tagged with location information.
Moreover, researchers do not need to go into the high-crime areas to study the information. Instead, "I send our algorithms to these locations and see what people are talking about," Gerber said.
"The computer algorithm learns the pattern and produces a prediction."
There are some limitations too Gerber added. Adequate historical data is needed, and some kinds of crimes, such as kidnapping and arson, may not fall into the same patterns of predictability, for reasons the researchers could not explain.
Even though, the New York police department has already contacted him, and he has begun to review data from that city to determine if the results from Chicago can be replicated.
However, he is on the way to figure out to make the research in practical way.
"We did not address whether this reduces crime," he said. "That's one of the next steps."
The study was funded by the US Army, which Gerber said uses similar techniques to determine threats in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan.