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More By Artist 1. Comment 0. Hargrove began by requesting homicide reports from to ; they included more than five hundred thousand murders. As a test case, he chose Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer, who, starting in the early eighties, murdered at least forty-eight women in Seattle, and left them beside the Green River.
Above his desk, Hargrove taped a mugshot of Ridgway in which he looks tired and sullen. Creating the algorithm was laborious work. It was sort of jerry-rigged, Scotch-Taped. He was always tinkering.
Ridgway was eventually identified by DNA and was arrested in , as he was leaving his job at a Kenworth truck plant, where he had worked as a painter for thirty-two years. He told the police that strangling women was his actual career. They had met at a Parents Without Partners gathering and had been married for seventeen years.
She said that he had always treated her like a newlywed. Ridgway had considered killing his first two wives but decided that he was too likely to get caught. Mostly, he killed prostitutes, and, if he killed one who had money on her, he regarded it as his payment for killing her.
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Hargrove began each day with a review of what had failed the day before. He sorted the homicides by type, since he had been told that serial killers often strangle or bludgeon their victims, apparently because they prefer to prolong the encounter. He selected for women, because the F. Each test took a day.
He had no idea if anything would work. With those terms, the algorithm organized the killings into approximately ten thousand groups. One might be: Boston, women, fifteen to nineteen years old, and handguns. Another might be: New Orleans, women, twenty to fifty, and strangulation. Seattle came in third, with most of the victims women whose cause of death was unknown—unknown because the bodies had been left outside and sufficient time had passed that the coroners could no longer determine how they had died.
By reading meaning into the geography of victims and their killers, Hargrove is unwittingly invoking a discipline called geographic profiling, which is exemplified in the work of Kim Rossmo, a former policeman who is now a professor in the School of Criminal Justice at Texas State University. In , Rossmo was on a train in Japan when he came up with an equation that can be used to predict where a serial killer lives, based on factors such as where the crimes were committed and where the bodies were found.
The farther criminals travel, the less likely they are to act, a phenomenon that criminologists call distance decay. Rossmo has used geographic profiling to track terrorists—he studied where they lived, where they stored weapons, and the locations of the phone booths they used to make calls—and to identify places where epidemics began. He also worked with zoologists, to examine the hunting patterns of white sharks. We know quite a lot about the journey to a crime. By noting where killings took place or the bodies were discovered, you can actually create probability distributions.
Using computers to find killers has historical precedent. Eric Witzig, a retired homicide detective and a former F. Witzig told me how, in the fifties, Brooks worked on the case of Harvey Glatman, who became known as the Lonely Hearts Killer.
Glatman was a radio-and-TV repairman and an amateur photographer who would invite young women to model for him, saying that the photographs were for detective magazines. He would tie his victim up for the shoot, and then never remove the bonds. Brooks started to research the way that some killers seemed to commit the same crime repeatedly. He began putting all his murder records onto three-by-five cards, and after becoming interested in computers in the late nineteen-fifties he asked the L.
He was told that it was too expensive. In , he presented the idea of a homicide-tracking computer database to Congress, after which the F. With these combined grants and with the help of a growing team of researchers, interns, and technicians, Professor Crane believes that the digitization of the remaining works for the project can be completed soon. Work will also soon begin in August on designing a user-interface for accessing the corpus that will allow users to download texts, search the corpus, and manipulate it and its elements for analysis to an unprecedented degree.
Another crucial development is the extraordinary sophistication and success of sofware for Optical Character Recognition of Greek and for its verification by Professor Bruce Robertson of the Classics Department at Mt. Allison College, New Brunswick.
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Have you encountered any obstacles to this process? Where does the project currently stand? Fragments of larger works embedded in other more complete works present a particularly complex set of problems for computer access, so they were at first ruled out of the collection, but there has been much progress on the technology for making precise references to them accessible by Monica Berti, assistant professor at the University of Leipzig and a long-time staff member of the Perseus Project at Tufts University.
The result is that major collections, such as the fragments of Greek historiographers or of Greek comedy and tragedy, are now being incorporated in the corpus.