Communities and Crime

This was my first semester teaching undergrads at UT Dallas. I taught the Communities and Crime undergrad course. I thought it went very well, and I was impressed with the undergrads here. For the course I had students do a bunch of different prediction assignments based on open data in Dallas, such as predicting what neighborhood has the most crime, or which specific bar has the most assaults. The idea being they would use the theories I discussed in the prior lecture to make the best predictions.

For their final assignment, I had students predict an arbitrary area to capture the most robberies in 2016 (up to that point they had only been predicting crimes in 2015). I used the same metric that NIJ is using in their crime forecasting challenge – the predictive accuracy index. This is simply % crime/% area, so students who give larger areas are more penalized. This ended up producing a pretty neat capstone to the end of the semester.

Below is a screen shot of the map, and here is a link to an interactive version. (WordPress.com sites only allow specific types of iframe sources, so my dropbox src link to the interactive Leaflet map gets stripped.)

Look forward to teaching this class again (as of now it seems I will regularly offer it every spring).

More news on classes to come soon. I am teaching GIS applications in Criminology online over the summer. For a quick idea about the content, it will be almost the same as the GIS course in criminal justice I previously taught at SUNY.

In short, if you think maps rock then you should take my classes 😉

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New undergrad course – Communities and Crime

This semester I am teaching a new undergrad course, communities and crime. Still a few seats left if you are a UT Dallas student and still interested. (You can also audit the course as well even if you are not a UT Dallas student.)

You can see the syllabus from the linked page, but compared to other syllabi I’ve found floating around, (see Dan O’Brien or Elizabeth Groff for two undergrad examples) I focus more on micro places than others. Some syllabi I’ve found spend basically the whole semester on social disorganization, which I think is excessive.

One experiment I am going to try for this course is to use Dallas Open crime data, and then have the students make predictions. For example, for their first assignment they are supposed to make their prediction based on social disorganization theory what neighborhood has the most crime in Dallas from this neighborhood map in Dallas. (Fusion table embedding not working in my WordPress post at the moment for some reason!)

These neighborhoods were obtained from Jane Massey, a researcher for the Dallas area Habitat for Humanity. Hence why the flood plain is its own neighborhood. It is the most reasonable source I’ve seen so far. Most generally agree (see Dallas Magazine for one example), but that data is not very tidy. See this web app to draw your own neighborhood in Dallas as well. And of course for students interested part of the discussion will be about how you define a neighborhood.

New course – Advanced Methods in Criminology

This fall I am teaching a PhD course, the course is listed as Crim 7301 – Seminar in Criminology Research and Analysis. The link to UT Dallas’s coursebook description is here, and I have placed a page on my blog that contains the syllabus. My blog is just nicer, since I can include more info. than I can directly on UTD’s page, as well as update material as I go.

The description behind the course in UT Dallas is pretty open, but I am mostly motivated to design a course to go over the regular quasi-experimental research designs I encounter most often in practice. Students also have a lab component which entails actually conducting such data analysis, with code snippets mostly in SPSS, R, and Stata.

For this, as well as other course materials if you cannot access Dropbox links feel free to email me and I will send the material directly.

As with many graduate level methods courses, it is heavily influenced by my personal experience. But I am open to suggestions in the future if you want a particular topic covered. For example I debated on including missing data analysis (e.g. multiple imputation, full information max. likelihood) for a week. If there was interest in that (or some other topic) I could definitely update the syllabus. Just come by for a chat or send me an email with your suggestion.


In general for students, if you have questions or would like my input on project ideas feel free to stop by. My current posted office hours are Tuesday and Friday, 9 to 11 am, but I am at my office during normal work hours for the whole week. (Knock if the door is closed, I am often in here.)