IDEAS Team Aims to Use “Big Data” to Improve Crime Reporting

English: Logo of the Massachusetts Institute o...

English: Logo of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How do you improve crime reporting in areas where people don’t trust the government? Crowd-source it—at least, that’s what a group of students at MIT participating in the IDEAS Global Challenge aim to do.

Layla Shaikley, Ali Kamil and Chalres Sims are working on a project they call CRIMEO, which would allow people in war-torn or totalitarian areas to text information about local crimes into a centralized, non-governmental system.

Shaikley, who spoke at October’s IDEAS Generator Dinner, led her pitch with the story about her own brother being kidnapped in Iraq. The incident eventually spread around the neighborhood as an anecdote, she said, but it was never reported in a context useful for other residents.

If a system like CRIMEO had been in place, she said, neighbors could have checked the database to see if there had been similar crimes in the area and use that information to guide their behavior.

RIght now, CRIMEO is appropriately in the ideas phase. At the Generator Dinner, the team hadn’t finalized how the system would work, but recognized certain limitations. While it wouldn’t be too difficult to build the system as a smartphone app, Kamil said that most of the system’s constituents own only old-style cell phones. That adds complication to displaying data on nearby crimes.

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