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Bayesian Spatio-Temporal Modeling for Analysing Local Patterns of Crime Over Time at the Small-Area Level

NCJ Number
Journal of Quantitative Criminology Volume: 30 Issue: 1 Dated: March 2014 Pages: 57-78
Jane Law; Matthew Quick; Ping Chan
Date Published
March 2014
22 pages
The objective of this study was to explore Bayesian spatio-temporal methods to analyse local patterns of crime change over time at the small-area level through an application to property crime data in the Regional Municipality of York, Ontario, Canada.
This research represents the first application of Bayesian spatio-temporal modeling to crime trend analysis at a large map scale. The Bayesian model, fitted by Markov chain Monte Carlo simulation using WinBUGS, stabilized risk estimates in small (census dissemination) areas and controlled for spatial autocorrelation (through spatial random effects modeling), deprivation, and scarce data. It estimated (1) (linear) mean trend; (2) area-specific differential trends; and (3) (posterior) probabilities of area-specific differential trends differing from zero (i.e. away from the mean trend) for revealing locations of hot and cold spots. Property crime exhibited a declining mean trend across the study region from 2006 to 2007. Variation of area-specific trends was statistically significant, which was apparent from the map of (95 percent credible interval) differential trends. Hot spots in the north and south west, and cold spots in the middle and east of the region were identified. Bayesian spatio-temporal analysis contributes to a detailed understanding of small-area crime trends and risks. It estimates crime trend for each area as well as an overall mean trend. The new approach of identifying hot/cold spots through analyzing and mapping probabilities of area-specific crime trends differing from the mean trend highlights specific locations where crime situation is deteriorating or improving over time. Future research should analyze trends over three or more periods (allowing for non-linear time trends) and associated (changing) local risk factors. (Published Abstract)