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Crime sensing with big data: the affordances and limitations of using open-source communications to estimate crime patterns

Williams, Matthew L. ORCID:, Burnap, Pete ORCID: and Sloan, Luke ORCID: 2017. Crime sensing with big data: the affordances and limitations of using open-source communications to estimate crime patterns. British Journal of Criminology 57 (2) , pp. 320-340. 10.1093/bjc/azw031

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This paper critically examines the affordances and limitations of big data for the study of crime and disorder. We hypothesise that disorder-related posts on Twitter are associated with actual police crime rates. Our results provide evidence that naturally occurring social media data may provide an alternative information source on the crime problem. This paper adds to the emerging field of computational criminology and big data in four ways: i) it estimates the utility of social media data to explain variance in offline crime patterns; ii) it provides the first evidence of the estimation offline crime patterns using a measure of broken windows found in the textual content of social media communications; iii) it tests if the bias present in offline perceptions of disorder is present in online communications; and iv) it takes the results of experiments to critically engage with debates on big data and crime prediction.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Computer Science & Informatics
Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA76 Computer software
Additional Information: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons CC BY license, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISSN: 0007-0955
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Date of Acceptance: 19 February 2016
Last Modified: 03 May 2023 19:55

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