Can Mathematicians Fight Crime With Their Mapping Models?
|December 11, 2013||Posted by Staff under Crime|
This 2013 excerpt of Pacific Standard, Spt 17, is by Lauren Kirchner.
Lévy flight is a pattern of movement that consists of short, frequent steps all clustered in one area, and is then punctuated by long walks to a separate area. Picture wild animals foraging for food in a field, or searching an ocean for prey: they’ll slowly use up all the resources in one small area, and then move to a new area and start eating or hunting again there.
The Lévy flight, named after French mathematician Paul Lévy, has been used to describe phenomena as wide-ranging as financial markets, earthquakes, and a child’s game of hide-and-seek. In recent years, it has even been used to analyze patterns as dreary as the Web-surfing habits of online consumers, and as fascinating as the drips and streaks of Jackson Pollock’s paintings.
Now mathematicians argue that the Lévy pattern may mapping — and potentially prevent — crime.
A burglar might try to break into a group of homes in one localized area over the course of several days, and then, after a while, might travel to a new neighborhood for another cluster of break-ins. Short steps, long leap, short steps: the Lévy flight model.
While law enforcement agencies normally record information about the location and times of discrete crimes in an area, they don’t yet have a widely-accepted method for tracking — let alone predicting — the movement of individual criminals.
“Certain policing efforts concentrate on known offenders’ home territories as a predictor of future crimes,” Kolokolnikov and McCalla said. “If the relationship between a burglar’s movement and choice of targets becomes better elucidated, then the police will be better informed when they schedule their nightly patrols.”
Ed. Notes: Imagine if some mathematical formula could predict future behavior; then maybe it could predict a new fad or fashion. And wouldn’t it be nice if Levy flight described a real-world workweek? We’d do a bunch of short activities to make money then take a long time off just to relax, back and forth.
Actually, there is an economic reform that could make workweeks more humane and at the same time fight crime — that is to recover and share the socially-generated values of land and resources.
When Pittsburgh used to tax the rental value of locations in the city, it had the lowest crime rate of any major US city, by far. The tax kept speculators at bay, so land and housing was affordable and neighborhoods enduring — that cut crime. And if any place were to pay a “rent” dividend — bigger than Alaska’s oil share or Singapore’s land dividend — then people would have the cushion that’d allow them to work and play in a healthier balance.