Thursday, March 09, 2006

Geographic Profiling Workshop: Popular Culture Meets Analysis

The 'To Catch a Thief' geographic criminology contest that culminated in a hands-on workshop last Thursday was a huge success on so many levels.

For previous posts concerning this, see here, here, here, and finally here.

We had an extremely nice showing and I have finally gotten through to quite a number of criminology folks who have never thought they could actually use GIS software. Within 12 hours after the workshop, I received 3 emails from workshop participants asking me about similar datasets for other areas in Texas and the U.S. That is the best as it shows me they are actively thinking about geography and spatial relationships.

Anyone wishing to download all of the materials for the contest/workshop can do so by downloading the following file: http://gis.uta.edu/download/ToCatchAThief/catchThief.exe. This executable file is a self-extracting rar file. Extract it to any directory you wish. The files inside (2 files and a folder in the root directory) can be burned directly to a CD or run direct. Each participant in the workshop was handed a CD (with a nice label), but to run the application directly just click the To_Catch_a_Thief.exe file. This will launch the menu (developed using Camtasia MenuMaker) where the actual datasets can be installed, the walk-through can be accessed, all 4 clues can be read, a brief bibliography on geographic profiling can be read, and a wealth of more information. The only thing to be aware of is that the datasets must be installed to the C:/ directory, where a new folder called 'catchThief' will be created. You will also need to be at a computer with ArcGIS 9. Feel free to email me with any questions or comments. Just remember that I have no real criminology background. ;)

As the walk-through details with step-by-step precision, there are actually two exercises. First, we use multivariate linear regression to find future potential locations. Second, we use suitability analysis to try to track down the criminal'(s) home or hide-out.

Oh, and the Shorthorn (student-run newspaper) showed up and wrote this nice article called Math Mystery Solved. The reporter and photographer intended to show up and take some quick interviews and photos, but ended up getting drawn into the workshop and stayed and participated for the entire two hours. Then the reporter classified the demo as a math demo. This is really cool, because if my very first blog post about this topic last October, I wrote this:
"Nothing at work gives me greater pleasure than to see the light in some student's eye when he/she finally and for the first time understands how mathematics and analysis is actually a powerful tool for solving useful real world problems."
This workshop accomplished this more than any other workshop or instruction session that I have ever held. I want to sincerely thank LordKingSquirrel for firing the impulses that led me to this idea.

Why was this idea so successful? I believe it is the relationships that this created between popular culture and math/analysis. It takes the popular (crime dramas) and gives it a solid, geographical, mathematical backbone. This really struck a chord with the students, faculty, and many of those beyond our campus.

So, are you itching to know the solution to the contest?? Probably not, but then again perhaps yes as you sure have read through this post pretty far down.

The criminal(s) were using the TRE.