Gerber (2014). Predicting crime using Twitter and kernel density estimation

Gerber, Matthew S. (2014). Predicting crime using Twitter and kernel density estimation; Decision Support Systems Volume 61, May 2014, Pages 115–125

Twitter is used extensively in the United States as well as globally, creating many opportunities to augment decision support systems with Twitter-driven predictive analytics. Twitter is an ideal data source for decision support: its users, who number in the millions, publicly discuss events, emotions, and innumerable other topics; its content is authored and distributed in real time at no charge; and individual messages (also known as tweets) are often tagged with precise spatial and temporal coordinates. This article presents research investigating the use of spatiotemporally tagged tweets for crime prediction. We use Twitter-specific linguistic analysis and statistical topic modeling to automatically identify discussion topics across a major city in the United States. We then incorporate these topics into a crime prediction model and show that, for 19 of the 25 crime types we studied, the addition of Twitter data improves crime prediction performance versus a standard approach based on kernel density estimation. We identify a number of performance bottlenecks that could impact the use of Twitter in an actual decision support system. We also point out important areas of future work for this research, including deeper semantic analysis of message content, temporal modeling, and incorporation of auxiliary data sources. This research has implications specifically for criminal justice decision makers in charge of resource allocation for crime prevention. More generally, this research has implications for decision makers concerned with geographic spaces occupied by Twitter-using individuals.