Machine learning used by Cardiff University to predict violence hotspots

alcohol used as violence indicator
Their studies is the first to include places that don't serve alcohol but are included on a typical "night out". Source: (via Pxhere)
The new research highlights areas where violence is more likely to take place, enabling emergency responders to be better prepared.

By Holly Giles | Deputy Editor 

Current strategies to reduce violence focus on pubs and nightclubs as sites where alcohol is sold and violence is most common. However, work published by Cardiff University this month suggests they need to be broadened to include non-alcoholic places to be effective.

The work included researchers for Cardiff University’s Violence Research Group gathering data from ten city centres across England and Wales. This data was then put into machine learning programs to map locations of incidents of violent crime with alcohol areas and areas where alcohol is not sold.

The inclusion of places that do not sell alcohol made the model more accurate in predicting levels of violence than the current models used.

The other areas the study highlighted included fast-food outlets, takeaways, bus stops, taxi ranks and cash machines; many of these are associated with nights out so are where it is common to see gatherings on drunk party goers.

The PhD student working on the modelling of alcohol-related violence is Joseph Redfern, from the Visual COmputing Group at the School of Computer Science and Informatics. When reflecting on the findings Redfern told,

“Violence reduction strategies often focus on pubs, bars and nightclubs, for example staggering pub closing times and venue security requirements – and while alcohol outlets remain the best individual predictors of violence, our research suggests that more could be done in a range of other locations”


Looking ahead into how teams will use these findings Redfern added: “If this work could help to inform new violence reduction strategies and reduce the number of assaults, it could have a positive effect on many people’s lives”. 

The director of the Violence Research Group, Professor Simon Moore, said:

“When there are people there is a risk of violence. Some people are more prone to be aggressive and understanding how certain locations attract these people means resources can be put in place to challenge violence … It is likely that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to considerable pent up demand and when nightlife returns to normal it is very likely levels of violence will as well. But we have a unique opportunity to think clearly about how we can better manage public spaces so that people have fun, but safely. This work makes a considerable contribution to our understanding of these issues.”

These findings will be important in planning violence control for our city and across the UK in a post-lockdown world. While nightlife may seem a far distant memory, when it returns it is hoped the research will enable everyone to have a good time safely.


Science and Technology Holly Giles

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