The Algorithm That Could Catch Serial Killers

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Around 216,000 people have gotten away with murder in the US since 1980. A nonprofit group wants to put a stop to that.

The Murder Accountability Project contains “the most complete data on US homicides available anywhere,” according to their site. It’s an open-source website that uses vast banks of data from state, local, and FBI sources to provide insight into murders, both unsolved and solved.

Anybody can access the database through the Search Cases bar (below), which can be broken down into geographic area, year of incident, the weapon used, and the victim’s sex, ethnicity, age, etc.

The project was created by Thomas Hargrove, a retired investigative reporter, data journalist, and former White House correspondent. Keeping with that journalistic spirit, the website was created in the interest of public transparency and accountability. As they explain, it hopes “to educate Americans on the importance of accurately accounting for unsolved homicides within the United States.”

Bloomberg reports that Hargrove used the raw data to find a pattern of murders in Gary, Indiana, around 2010. His analysis showed 14 unsolved murders  all strangled women between the ages of 20 and 50. Hargrove pointed this out to police, but they reportedly paid no attention. Lo and behold, four years later, authorities arrested Darren Deon Vann, suspected of killing at least five women. Although it isn't yet clear if Hargrove was spot on, it certainly showed he was onto something.

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