Friday, 11 August 2017

Automatically generating Bayesian networks in analysis of linked crimes

Constructing an effective and complete Bayesian network (BN) for individual cases that involve multiple related pieces of evidence and hypotheses requires a major investment of effort. Hence, generic BNs have been developed for common situations that only require adapting the underlying probabilities. These so called `idioms’ make it practically possible to build and use BNs in casework without spending unacceptable amounts of time constructing the network. However, in some situations both the probability tables and the structure of the network depend on case specific details.

Examples of such situations are where there are multiple linked crimes. In (deZoete2015) a BN structure was produced for evaluating evidence in cases where a person is suspected of being the offender in multiple possibly linked crimes. In (deZoete2017) this work has been expanded to cover situations with multiple offenders for possibly linked crimes. Although the papers present a methodology of constructing such BNs, the workload associated with constructing them together with the possibility of making mistakes in conditional probability tables, still present unnecessary difficulties for potential users.

As part of the BAYES KNOWLEDGE project, we have developed online accessible GUIs that allow the user to select the parameters that reflect their crime linkage situation (both for one and double offender crime linkage cases). The associated BN is then automatically generated according to the structures described in (deZoete2015) and (deZoete2017). It is presented visually in the GUI and is available as download for the user as a .net file which can be opened in AgenaRisk or another BN software package. These applications both serve as a tool for those interested or working with crime linkage problems and as a proof of principle of the added value of such GUIs to make BNs accessible by removing the effort of constructing every network from scratch.

The GUIs are available from the `DEMO’ tab on the BAYES KNOWLEDGE website and is based on R code, a statistical programming language. This automated workflow can reduce the workload for, in this case, forensic statisticians and increase the mutual understanding between researchers and legal professionals.

Jacob deZoete will be presenting this work at the 10th International Conference on Forensic Inference and Statistics (ICFIS 2017) in Minneapolis, September 2017.


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