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Self-Exciting Point Models of Civilian Deaths in Iraq

NCJ Number
Security Journal Volume: 25 Issue: 3 Dated: July 2012 Pages: 244-264
Erik Lewis; George Mohler; P. Jeffrey Brantingham; Andrea L. Bertozzi
Date Published
July 2012
21 pages
The goal in this paper is to analyze temporal patterns of civilian death reports in Iraq.
These patterns are expected to evolve on time-scales ranging from years to minutes as a result of changes in the security environment on equally varied time-scales. To assess the importance of multiple time-scales in evolving security threats, the authors develop a self-exciting point process model similar to that used in earthquake analysis. Here the rate of violent events is partitioned into a background rate and a foreground self-exciting component. Background rates are assumed to change on relatively long time-scales. Foreground self-excitation, in which events trigger an increase in the rate of violence, is assumed to be short-lived. The authors explored the model using data from Iraq Body Count on civilian deaths between 2003 and 2007. The results indicate that self-excitation makes up as much as 37-50 percent of all violent events and that self-excitation lasts at most between 2 and 6 weeks, depending upon the district in question. Appropriate security responses may benefit from taking these different time-scales of violence into consideration. (Published Abstract)


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