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UEL hosts major conference on big data, AI and the future of crime and justice

ACE Computing

UEL brings key government figures and academics together to discuss data and crime

While knife crime grabs the headlines, attendees at the 'Big Data, AI and the Future of Crime and Justice' conference heard how big data and AI (artificial intelligence) will impact the future of crime and justice.

The conference, organised by the Centre for Geo-Information Studies at the University of East London (UEL) and The Crime & Justice Statistics Network of the British Society of Criminology, heard from leading government and academic experts in data science and AI on how new technologies can play a role in crime and justice. Most of the speakers either touched on or explored the issue of data ethics, an important and growing area of practice and research.

Professor Allan Brimicombe, head of the Centre for Geo-Information Studies, said, “The conference series has been organised because big data and AI are at the heart of the fourth industrial revolution, which will have an important impact on society. This conference on crime and justice not only reflects my own personal research interests but is a key dimension of our social fabric.”

Attendees heard from representatives of the three main government departments involved with data science, and crime and justice statistics: the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice.

Iain Bell, Deputy National Statistician at ONS, talked about changes to the crime survey, planning for the next census and the work of their data science campus. He revealed that while current figures show that overall violent crime has not increased, knife crime in particular has.

Rupert Chaplin, who heads up data science at the Home Office, and his colleague Eric Young presented a novel analysis of near-repeat events of knife crime. Jonathan Roberts, who leads on data science at the Ministry of Justice, talked about bringing data and evidence to the heart of decision making in the Ministry of Justice, in particular delivering the high-quality data and tools needed to solve its business problems.

Cristina Magder from the UK Data Service spoke about the principles and practices of quality assurance and disclosure control in data re-use. She explained the practicalities and components of ‘data health checks’ and the ‘5 Safes’ of protecting confidentiality.

Anjali Mazumder, who is AI and justice and human rights theme lead at the Alan Turing Institute, spoke about using data science and AI to combat modern slavery and other organised exploitive crimes. She questioned whether we are moving towards the delegation of judgements of experienced professionals to computers.

Martina Feilzer, professor of criminology and criminal justice at Bangor University, took up the theme of promises and risks of predictive policing. She concluded by raising questions of proportionality, legality, fitness for purpose and the necessary skill sets to use these types of tools successfully.  

Helen Hodges from the Wales Centre for Public Policy presented her research on model risk factors and youth offending relationships. She questioned whether big data was always necessary when important insights can be gained from smaller samples when data science approaches to analysis are applied.

Over 200 people attended the conference including a high number of crime and security analysts, which attests to the level of interest in this topic. One AI consultant said, “Thank you for hosting today’s event on AI. I thought it was one of the better events of this sort in London.”

UEL has a highly successful and popular MSc Data Science and Professional Doctorate in Data Science.