Psychological Effects of Urban Crime Gleaned from Social Media
Keywords:social media, Twitter, crime, sentiment, affect, emotion
Exposure to frequent crime incidents has been found to have a negative bearing on the well-being of city residents, even if they are not themselves a direct victim. We pursue the research question of whether naturalistic data shared on Twitter may provide a “lens” to understand changes in psychological attributes of urban communities (1) immediately following crime incidents, as well as (2) due to long-term exposure to crime. We analyze half a million Twitter posts from the City of Atlanta in 2014, where the rate of violent crime is three times of the national average. In a first study, we develop a statistical method to detect changes in social media psychological attributes in the immediate aftermath of a crime event. Second, we develop a regression model that uses historical (yearlong) crime to predict Twitter negative emotion, anxiety, anger, and sadness. We do not find significant changes in social media affect immediately following crime in Atlanta. However we do observe significant ability of historical crime to account for heightened negative emotion and anger in the future. Our findings have implications in gauging the utility of social media to infer longitudinal and population-scale patterns of urban well-being.