Using Big Data to find Safe Areas of Chicago 1

Using Big Data to find Safe Areas of Chicago

Posted Wednesday, Aug 17, 2016 by Jeff Safire

I just read an article at about using data mining in Big Data, using data from Chicago’s taxis to determine “safe” areas in the city, and areas of heavier crime. The researchers at Penn State found that areas of night clubs were surprisingly “safe.” It is claimed that this information could help police determine which parts of a city to concentrate their patrols in. This brief introductory article immediately stirs up questions for me: Are all areas of night clubs “safe”? Are all groups of night clubs heavily served by taxis? Are not some areas of night clubs closer to The ‘L’ and likely not serviced as heavily by taxis? Does this study factor these into the picture?

Can Tracking Taxis Help Police Fight Crime?

by Sean Allocca,
Wednesday, August 17, 2016 8:15 AM

Big data can reveal intricate patterns of human behavior and interaction. But, can taxi data taken from one of America’s largest, and most dangerous, cities be used to effectively fight crime?

Analysis of Chicago’s taxi drop-off and pick-up times and locations have revealed startling facts about the idiosyncrasies of life in the city, but more importantly, about where and when crimes are being committed.

Researchers from Penn State analyzed thousands of data points from points-of-interest in the city, taxi records, crime statistics, and demographics to put together a massive data set that might be able to accurately predict crime—or at least, better understand where and when crimes are taking place.

Assistant professor Jesse Li said the information could be used to better direct police resources to more efficiently fight crime.

“We had this idea that taxis serve as hyperlinks because people are not only influenced by the nearby location, but they are also frequently influenced by the places they go to,” said Li.

The researchers collected data points from taxi trip records, points-of-interest from FourSquare, and traditional crime statistics from Chicago’s data portal. The study also integrated demographic information including population, poverty, disadvantage index, and ethnic diversity.

Somewhat surprisingly, researchers said some of the safest places in Chicago are areas with night clubs. Li said it might reflect people’s choice to be in a place that is already deemed as safe, even if that place is a night club.
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