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Complex systems approaches to issues in crime and security

7 March 2012

Toby Davies

This research concerns the mathematical modelling and analysis of issues related to security and crime. Such issues involve many factors, interacting in non-trivial ways, and as such are well-suited to treatment as complex systems and the use of associated tools. By attempting to model these factors, often using insight from quantitative social science, and their interactions, the aim is to provide a more thorough and well-rounded understanding of the mechanisms underlying security issues. This is done using techniques such as agent-based modelling and game theory, alongside more traditional differential-equation-based modelling. There is also particular emphasis upon applications of complex network theory to this area, where techniques originating in graph theory can be used.

A large section of the research is focussed on modelling spatio-temporal patterns of crime at the urban level, with specific focus on how this is influenced by the urban backcloth and layout of cities. A simulation-based approach is used to explore various criminological theories and mechanisms and to analyse the effect of changes to the backcloth or direct interventions.

Other topics to be explored include large-scale civil disorder, modelled using anologies with systems in other fields, such as retail and epidemiology, and the social network analysis of criminal organisations and their intra-group communication patterns.