Computational Criminology Cluster


Henk Elffers, Charlotte Gerritsen (coordinator), Wouter Steenbeek and Stijn Ruiter


Traditional criminological research methods use interviews, register data, observations, or may employ vignette studies. Recent developments in ICT make it possible, using knowledge from such traditional studies, to computationally model human behaviour. Within the Computational Criminology Cluster the focus lies on the use of such computational models for investigating criminal behaviour. Two approaches can be distinguished, namely knowledge-driven (top down) and data-driven (bottom-up) methods.

Research methods

Knowledge-driven methods take existing knowledge from behavioural sciences as input and try to formalise this knowledge in dynamic computational models. Using the appropriate software these models can be used to simulate human behaviour: virtual scenarios that (dynamically) simulate behaviour over time. These types of computer simulations offer opportunities to develop innovative methods and tools to better understand, predict and possibly even prevent deviant behaviour. Examples are predicting the dynamics of crowds, simulating the behaviour of robbers or simulating aggression management strategies for training purposes in public transport.

Data-driven methods on the other hand take a large amount of existing empirical data as input and try to automatically (without interference of a human user) detect patterns. Since computers have much more computational power than humans, this approach offers high potential to discover new insights and develop new theories. Examples of this approach are detecting patterns in messages on social media, or finding correlations between some risk factors and deviant behaviour.

The combination of these approaches together forms the research area of Computation Criminology, a research area that introduces a new era in crime research.

(Inter)national collaborations

Cluster members collaborate intensively with the Artificial Intelligence department at the VU University Amsterdam. Further collaborations exist with research groups at Griffith University (Australia) and individual scholars worldwide amongst whom, dr. Daniel Birks (Griffith University), dr. Elizabeth Groff (Temple University), dr. Thomas Lampoltshammer (Danube University Krems), dr. Lin Liu (University of Cincinnati), dr. Michael Townsley (Griffith University).

Due to the immediate practical significance of the interdisciplinary research conducted in this cluster many partnerships exist with societal partners (Netherlands Police Academy, GVB, G4S) and the Ministry of Security and Justice.


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