Journal Article

Mathematics, Physics, and Crime

Neil Johnson

in Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice

Volume 2, issue 2, pages 160-166
Published in print January 2008 | ISSN: 1752-4512
Published online June 2008 | e-ISSN: 1752-4520 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/police/pan018
Mathematics, Physics, and Crime

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This paper looks at the general issue of patterns in spatio-temporal crime data; in other words, the ‘when’ and ‘where’ of crime events. For the case of violent acts, common patterns have been found to underlie fatalities in three quite different arenas: homicides in Bogota, Colombia; violent deaths in insurgent conflicts; and deaths due to global terrorist acts. It is proposed that the emerging scientific discipline of complexity is well placed to interpret such patterns—and may eventually lead to predictive spatio-temporal modeling. At the same time, caution is urged in simply adopting physical or biological models that are based on diffusion dynamics. While such models work very well in physical and biological systems, any element of decision making and/or communication at-a-distance in the criminological setting is likely to render diffusive models inaccurate and even potentially misleading.

Journal Article.  3634 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Policing

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