Mini-lecture: Predicting and fighting crime (UCL)

Uploaded by UCLTV on 03.02.2010

My name's Professor Gloria Laycock. I'm Director of
UCL's Jill Dando Institute of Security and Crime Science.
The Institute was set up in 2001, shortly after Jill Dando's murder,
as the very first institute of crime science in the world.
People say, what's crime science? They know what criminology is, and we're not that.
What we're trying to do here really is
involve science and scientists far more directly in helping to control crime.
And that's not just about
technology and target hardening and building
CC cameras and tagging things.
It's really about trying to get
the police and all our students particularly
to think like scientists think.
What we say is that
the reason science is so good,
if you like, the reason we know so much about
some sciences, like physics and chemistry and so on, is because those sciences test hypotheses.
They experiment,
and that's how they build knowledge, and that's what we think we should be doing far more of
in relation to crime control.
What we're doing here at the Jill Dando Institute is
spanning the whole of UCL and
dipping into departments all over the college that are doing security-related things.
And we pull them out of their little cubby holes
all over UCL and
talk to them about what they're doing,
work with them to bid for new research grants and importantly involve them in the teaching of our students.
So going back to crime science,
it's very outcome-focused. It's really about making crime go down. That's really all we care about, fewer victims.
That means either preventing crimes from happening in the first place
or catching people quicker,
detection in other words, improving detection because it's really very low at the moment.
And that takes us a lot into working with the police, working with data from the police in
the security services, the serious organised crime agency.
So we do a lot of mapping, for example. We get data. We map it.
What the police always want to know is
where's the next offence going to happen.
And some of our staff here, Shane Johnson & Kate Bowers, have been working over the last few years
to develop what they call ProMap,
which is a predictive mapping tool.
They're trying to predict when the next burglary's going to happen.
And by using some of the techniques of epidemiologists, the statistics epidemiologists use,
they're arguing that crime is a bit like a little infection. It kind of goes in little spates around
the place. You get a spate of burglaries here and then another on here.
And then they're showing that they can predict the next burglary about 80% of the time,
but within a very tiny window, 2 or 3 days, maybe.
the people who are being burgled are either the same people who were just burgled or their immediate neighbours.
So the burglars are sort of hitting an area,
gobbling up all the good bits, and then moving before somebody arrests them.
An analogy is foraging, the way
animals forage
in Africa, for example, they
find a nice bit of grass, they gobble it up and they move before someone gobbles them up.
It's only an analogy but it's a good one because it means we can explain it to the
police. We can explain it to communities,
and we can help them
to take what are really quite complex statistics and very
some quite challenging ideas from the very latest science but apply it and translate it
so they can use it
in their everyday work, really
to help drive crime down.
We're very
interested in the application of our science
knowledge-transfer, getting out there, talking to people
and translating what we do, which can be quite complicated,
into something they can use.