An Algorithm To Detect Serial Killers

Thomas K. Hargrove – Journalist

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algorithm

Source: Murder Accountability Project

While researching about the statistics of prostitution in 2004, Thomas Hargrove – an investigative journalist, acquired the Uniform Crime Report (UCR) from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) database library. The report contains a nationwide and voluntarily reported crimes brought to the bureau’s attention. In addition to the UCR, he also received a Supplementary Homicide Report accounting every single murder reported to the agency in 2004. After assessing all information he received , he spotted a trend that may help law enforcement identify serial killers.

 Building The System

To be able to realize his vision, Hargrove asked for help from a grad student from the University of Missouri. The student is responsible for building a system that spots the common factors in murder cases, especially those that might have been committed by possible serial murderers. As a test, they used an already solved case of Gary Ridgway The Green River Killer.  After months of failed testing in the identification of Ridgway’s victims he decided to narrow his formula to these four trends: location, age, gender, and how was the victim killedWhen all factors were provided, the algorithm identified Gary Ridgway without any problem.

Effectiveness Of The System

algorithm

Source: DailyMail.co.uk
The data narrows down to the location, age, gender, and how the victim was killed.

 

gary strangler

Source: q13fox.com Darren Deon Vann is an American serial killer who was arrested on October 18, 2014 for the murder of 19-year-old Afrikka Hardy at a Motel 6 in Hammond, Indiana and has confessed to the murders of six other female victims in Indiana

 

In 2010, the authorities in Youngstown, Ohio and Gary, Indiana opened a new homicide investigation that the algorithm was able to identify (15 unsolved strangulations). It was the case of Darren Deon Vann, a serial killer who confessed to killing women for many decades. After his confession, Vann took the police to abandoned properties where the bodies of unknown victims were found.

Problem With The Algorithm

The biggest challenge of the algorithm, is its lack of data. Majority of the police departments across the nation do not have access to each other’s unsolved crimes and not all are reported to the FBI. However, Hargrove’s determination in changing the approach of solving murders is his number one priority. He founded the Murder Accountability Project in 2015 and is assisted by obtaining information from the general public, a large number of those are from online communities.

Where is Thomas Hargrove Now? – via Murder Accountability Project

“Working with fellow board member Prof. David J. Icove of the University of Tennessee, Hargrove developed another algorithm that can review the National Fire Incident Reporting System to identify undetected or unreported arsons. Working with Prof. Guido H. Stempel III of Ohio University, Hargrove co-founded the Scripps Survey Research Center and co-edited a two-volume encyclopedia The 21st Century Voter: Who Votes, How They Vote and Why They Vote published by ABC-CLIO in late 2015. Hargrove is available to answer questions from police officers or the press and can be contacted at hargrove@murderdata.org or by phone at 571-606-5999.

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References:

Curiosity App: www.curiosity.com

Murder Accountability Project: www.murderdata.org

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