RPP T2 – LASSO Paper Review

A review of the LASSO research document by Don Casey and Phillip Burrell, who is currently my especially pleasant teacher. This text intends to answer the following questions:

Who is the author/s? Why was the document produced? In what context was the document produced? What are its underlying assumptions? How well supported and convincing is its arguments?” (Task specification, 2017)

1. Reason

The document appears produced to argue the benefits of the use of ‘fuzzy set theory’ in crime linkage techniques– also inferring the inadequacies of traditional approaches and ‘crisp set’ paradigms for sexual assault classification, such as those “raised by Canter” (2.2.2, line 2). It is stated that, in its context, “any crisp classification method is bound to fail” (3, line 2).

It aims to present a method that assures that “the assignment of crimes to classes is as a result of their positions in the concept space rather than their perceived association with wider psychological principles” (p74, line 26), to beneficially replace a primarily subjective framework foundation for crime linkage analysis.

The document also serves to partially detail the evolution of the authors’ central idea, with notes on the development of the authors’ ‘fuzzy set’ theory usage.

 2. Context

The provided LASSO document, written as a proposal of ideologies relating to criminology in a formal scientific context, uses academic referencing, empirical evidence and mathematical formulas to assert the viability of the aforementioned ideologies.

The document employs the context of ‘sexual assault’ to center its arguments about crime analysis techniques. The document is further contextualised by its focus on combating the ‘phenomenon’ of ‘linkage blindness’, of which it states “researchers are fully aware but have been unable to address” (p71, line 26).

 3. Underlying assumptions

The documents underlying assumptions are that ‘fuzzy set’ clustering of crime data can benefit the ‘search strategy’ of criminal analysis and investigation efforts – with that, asserting the ineligibility of traditional ‘crisp set’ clustering.

At initiation, the document assumes that the traditional methods for ‘crime linkage’ are inadequate and bettered by a ‘fuzzy set’ / c-means approach such as the one presented. To a degree, this assumption is proven by the evidence, inferences and assertions that follow.

It assumes that the reader is able to comprehend complex articulation and mathematical formulas. For where knowledge of exterior information is presented, references to further reading exist to provide further information.

Evident in the entirety of the document’s assertions, its underlying inferences centred on the viability and superiority of the proposed approach. While leaving a little to desire in the way of comparison, it states that the proposed method “provides the clearest and most effective search strategy for analysts in order to maximise their chances of a positive ‘hit’” (p75, line 13).

It assumes, with supporting evidence, that the solution to ‘linkage blindness’ “may be that instead of belonging nowhere or in a tiny compartment of a huge structure, that they belong in several places at the same time to differing degrees” [3, line 6]. From the complimentary experimentation presented, this undoubtedly is an idea that would require further comparative-testing to verify.

 4. Arguments

New information reiterates arguments and concessions are conservatively admitted to (e.g. “A problem that arose” [2.2.3, line 5] and “it is unlikely that the greatest utility of this technique will be at this low level of fuzziness” [p74, line 21]) to provide a fair appearance within the bounds of its biases. However, it’s determining of elements as logical (e.g. “using mathematically and logically sound methods [2.2, line 3]) is not uniformly afforded the defensive exposition that is spent on detractions of exterior beliefs. Its core concept of increasing accuracy of “highlighting areas in which to find the offender” is still subject to a majority inaccuracy.

The document provides statements (e.g. “although rapes can be organized into types [,] these will be far from ‘distinct’” [p71, line 2]), to then proceed to substantiate them with information / data (“they will be forced in to mutually exclusive groups that will misrepresent their complexity; a view arrived at after many years of research by Canter” [p71, line 5]), a method that seems intended to induce a similar conclusion in the reader.

References and sources are well-credentialed and wide-ranging. The authoring researcher’s data pool (“574 serious sexual offences from the Serious Crimes Analysis Section of the U.K National Policing Improvement Agency” [2.2, line 5] adapted to “110” [2.2, line 9] with “41” [2.2.3, line 4] fields in three categories) is much larger than that which is claimed to have conceived the traditional FBI ‘methodology’, detracted from in the introduction.

A criticism of the support of the numerous arguments can refer to minor grammatical errors or ‘typos’. E.g., “…there is a considerable dividend in terms additional evidence…” (Abstract, line 3) and “measures .By varying” (p74, line 16) which decreases overall understandability for its readership.

Another aspect of the document that offsets its convincingness is a bias towards personifying an arbitrary criminal as male e.g. “further crimes committed by him” (2.1, line 13) which, although simply descriptive, challenges reader alignment.

The fuzzy set and ‘c-means’ cluster formulas presented provide a view of a highly usable system for ‘crime linkage’ analysis that is without the criticisms that were placed on traditional methods in the precursory sections.

Another may be in the use of unclear articulation, fortunately not omnipresent, that does not explain enough to some readers. Where a description of a visualisation lies, an image does not accompany. Although simpler wording would have benefits, the empirical scientific descriptions of methods (once understood) are difficult to misread or interpret incorrectly and provide a superiorly defining and less subjective approach to ‘crime linkage’ than the detracted traditional approaches.

About its contents and assertions, the document states: ‘the implication in terms of assisting crime analysts and investigators is clear’ [p75, line 11] – a conclusion that is hard to argue with, given the consistent information contained.

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