facebook-policeAs data has mushroomed, there has been a growing sense that it could lead us to greater insights into future behaviours.  Nowhere is this more so than in policing.

The ATHENA project, for instance, is a West Yorkshire based venture to use big data to help inform and support policing.  Likewise, a partnership between police forces in Los Angeles and Kent has looked to big data to help inform where to position officers.

The big data of hate crime

We have recently teamed up with the Metropolitan Police (MPS), Demos, CASM Consulting and Palantir Technologies to investigate whether there is any link between the content we share on social media and hate crimes committed in the real world.

The project aims to explore how software can analyse data sets to aid the policing of hate crime.  These are acts committed against someone based on their race, religion, disability, gender-identity or sexual orientation.  It can involve things such as assault, harassment, robbery or threatening behaviour.

David Weir, Professor of Computer Science at the University, said: “There is a vast amount of data on social media sites and in police crime databases. Much of this data comes in the form of natural language, and without the help of text analysis technology it’s difficult to translate this into useful insights.

“With the police pushed for time, we need to look to technology to help unlock this data.”

Data integration

The analysis will be conducted using Palantir’s data integration and analytics platform, together with bespoke software developed by CASM Consulting, which was in itself developed through a partnership undertaken between the company, ourselves and Demos.

Applied together, these technologies will allow a huge ammount of text to be analysed to look for patterns and insights.  The aim is to provide an overall picture of activity in a certain area rather than allow individual identification of particular tweets.

The project is crucial, because despite crime levels falling across the UK, the number of recorded hate crimes continues to rise.  Islamophobic offences alone have risen by nearly 64 percent in London compared to the same period last year.

Dr Mark Walters, Reader in Criminal Law and Criminal Justice, said: “Hate crime is extremely damaging to individuals, and to communities, and to the cohesiveness of our multicultural society.

“This study is going to be using new technology along with academic expertise to help police in better understanding and better policing hate crime.”

The video below sees Dr Walters provide more information on the impact of hate crime, both on individuals but also on the communities involved.