Social media, police reports used to predict future crimes

Updated: Nov. 4, 2019 at 6:54 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A group of former and current LSU students is trying to predict crime and so far, they say they’ve just about figured it out. It’s called Crimer, and it’s based in Baton Rouge.

Daniel Atkinson is a junior at LSU who found himself a part of a tech company, Crimer, which is using software engineering to predict crimes.

“It just maximizes everyone’s time and definitely increases the chance of preventing crime before it happens,” Atkinson said.

Alexander ‘Lex’ Adams founded the company while he was at LSU. He says data pulled from police radio traffic and crime reports is fed into a highly intelligent system, then it spits information out based on a pattern.

“This is all done through machine learning models, so we take hundreds of thousands, actually, in this case, millions of incidents of crime, feed it to a machine learning model that learns how crime happens,” Adams said.

He says that data is also combined with auxiliary data, like population, property value over time, and weather.

“We’ll tell you not only where crimes are happening, but where they will be happening. Where they will be happening is not where they happened before," he said.

Social media is also a source of information.

“Anyone that posts something to Twitter goes through our system. In fact, we process about 5 million tweets a day,” Adams said.

He adds they also scan the public stories on Snapchat for illegal activity.

No personal information about the Twitter or Snapchat user is used, shared, or stored, but the processor reads the information to determine if a crime or drugs are being referenced. Adams says they often see people selling firearms and opioids on Twitter.

That’s where the East Baton Rouge District Attorney’s Office gets involved. Jon Daily says they’re working on a project to fight the drug problem. It’s called the Baton Rouge Opioid Project to Combat the Opioid Crisis. Daily says the DA’s office acquired the grant through the Department of Justice a little over a year ago.

Daily says they realized that to impact the community, they needed all hands on deck. He says they asked LSU to be a third-party research partner to use social media to analyze overdoses and distribution. LSU, in turn, reached out to Crimer.

“There’s a lot of activity on social media,” Daily said.

The EBR District Attorney’s Office says it’s trying to save lives by tracking down where drug sales and usage occurs, so law enforcement can stop it and get those people help.

“Maybe they could arrest them, but instead, if they have a one-page pamphlet with resources, here’s some places to get help,” Daily said.

He says it could change the way law enforcement approach and interact with the community and drugs.

“The more data, the better. The more information we can gather, the more we can determine how to positively impact the community,” Daily said. “Ultimately to save lives, save families, and combat the opioid crisis in the parish.”

The DA’s office says ignoring social media would be naive and the founder of Crimer says ultimately, he wants to partner with more law enforcement agencies. Above all, making the community safer is the mission behind the startup.

Crimer is already partnered with the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office. Adams also says eventually, he would like to partner with real estate companies to help them monitor property value to determine if a property value will drop due to social decay.

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