Monday, August 7, 2017

MAP’s serial killer algorithm available online

The Murder Accountability Project (MAP) has developed an algorithm capable of detecting serial killers who target multiple victims using similar methods of killing within a specific geographic area. This technique can be useful to police in identifying difficult-to-see patterns over a period of several years or even decades.

Data visualizations based upon this algorithm have been added to MAP’s webpage at the “Murder Clusters” tab. Web users can easily search for possible serial killers without expensive statistical software or advanced computer knowledge.

The algorithm is based upon a reasonable premise -- a serial killer can dramatically reduce the normal clearance rate for groups of similar victims killed through similar methods. The algorithm looks for clusters with extremely low clearance rates. This algorithm has successfully detected both well-known serial killers and killers whose homicidal patterns were not recognized by police.

“We are delighted to provide an online version of our serial-detection algorithm,” said MAP Chairman Thomas K. Hargrove. “We hope homicide detectives, police supervisors and the public will use it to identify threats to community safety.”

MAP believes murder clusters with much-lower-than-expected clearance rates have an elevated probability of containing serial killings. But they are not proof of the presence or absence of multiple-victim offenders. 

Rarely are all of the victims within a cluster the handiwork of serial killers. Police investigation – including physical evidence, offender confession, or witness testimony – is the best evidence that a cluster of homicides may be linked.

These visualizations were developed by Haneesh Marella and donated to the Murder Accountability Project. Contact Haneesh through his LinkedIn account here.