USC researchers develop crime mapping project

Students and researchers at USC’s Spatial Science Institute are helping Los Angeles officials address crime in the city using data and location services.

The project, titled “A Spatial Analysis of Street-level Crime Trends in L.A,” focuses on exploring how the locations of crimes are related to social and built environments using GeoHub, a mapping platform that shows location-based data. Variables such as the unemployment rate or the proximity of street lights in the immediate area are recorded so viewers can analyze correlations between environmental characteristics and where crimes are actually committed.

The idea behind the study is that law enforcement can use this information to deploy patrols and utilize their resources more effectively.

In one example, observers can take note of the time of day and day of the week a crime took place, as well as whether it occurred near a school, liquor store or Metro stop. By identifying these patterns, police departments can adjust the way they deploy officers to deter crime.

The study was spearheaded by postdoctoral research associate Noli Brazil and Geographic Information System project specialist Beau MacDonald, while undergraduates Izzy Mitchell, Richard Windisch, Kyra Schoonover, Robin Franke and Leonard Ngo and spatial informatics master’s student Yuqing Qian also contributed.

In December, the group presented this project to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s data team and the Los Angeles Police Department. Several major Los Angeles public officials and collaborators with the mayor’s office attended the presentation, including Garcetti’s chief data officer Lilian Coral, data fellow Sari Ladin and policy director for public safety Brian Buchner. Arnold Suzukamo, a GIS specialist at the LAPD, also attended.

“We were so impressed with the high quality of work that the Spatial Sciences Institute has done,” Buchner said, according to USC News. “They have brought us an innovative approach that will be tremendously useful as the mayor’s office, LAPD and other city stakeholders work to develop policies and strategies to improve community safety.”