Population at risk: using areal interpolation and Twitter messages to create population models for burglaries and robberies

Cartogr Geogr Inf Sci. 2017 Mar 30;45(3):205-220. doi: 10.1080/15230406.2017.1304243. eCollection 2018.


Population at risk of crime varies due to the characteristics of a population as well as the crime generator and attractor places where crime is located. This establishes different crime opportunities for different crimes. However, there are very few efforts of modeling structures that derive spatiotemporal population models to allow accurate assessment of population exposure to crime. This study develops population models to depict the spatial distribution of people who have a heightened crime risk for burglaries and robberies. The data used in the study include: Census data as source data for the existing population, Twitter geo-located data, and locations of schools as ancillary data to redistribute the source data more accurately in the space, and finally gridded population and crime data to evaluate the derived population models. To create the models, a density-weighted areal interpolation technique was used that disaggregates the source data in smaller spatial units considering the spatial distribution of the ancillary data. The models were evaluated with validation data that assess the interpolation error and spatial statistics that examine their relationship with the crime types. Our approach derived population models of a finer resolution that can assist in more precise spatial crime analyses and also provide accurate information about crime rates to the public.

Keywords: Areal interpolation; Twitter; population at risk; spatial crime analysis.

Grant support

This research was funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) through the Doctoral College GIScience at the University of Salzburg (DK W 1237-N23).