How data and artificial intelligence is used to fight crime
The Fighting Crime with Big Data conference explores the role of new technology in law enforcement and crime prevention.

On March 25, 2023, the Fighting Crime with Big Data Conference will take place at the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) from 11:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Innovation Centre, Kaneff Centre. Planned events include keynote speeches, a panel discussion, a light lunch, networking opportunities, and an award ceremony for the 2023 BIGDataAIHUB Case Competition.

The competition was organized by UTM’s Institute of Management of Innovation. This year’s competition—which began on November 26, 2022—was a four-month experiential learning and development opportunity, where students applied big data and artificial intelligence tools to address real-life problems. All U of T students with big data or artificial intelligence experience were eligible to participate. The competition used very large data sets, provided by Scotiabank, to analyze criminal activity such as human trafficking, money laundering, and forced labour.

In conversation with The Medium, Professor Kevin Yousie, chair of the BIGDataAIHUB Case Competition and co-chair of the Fighting Crime with Big Data Conference says, “In this era of big data and artificial intelligence, organizations such as police departments and financial institutions have made good progress in identifying ways to recognize patterns of criminal behavior that were not possible before.” By using various algorithm and data analysis techniques, it is possible to identify illicit activity using various information. An example would be identifying money laundering schemes by bringing attention to suspicious payment transactions. 

Professor Yousie explains that “through this experience students learn about crimes such as money laundering and human trafficking, but more importantly, how technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning are being used to combat them.” Throughout the competition, a number of optional technical workshops were offered to participants, covering skills such as data visualization, Python fundamentals, as well as Pandas advanced data manipulation and text analytics.  

This year 51 teams competed. The competition involved two rounds of judging, where five finalists were chosen from the first round of submissions. The five finalists will present their work in the morning of March 25—right before the conference, and the top three teams will be announced when the conference ends. The first prize is $12,000, the second prize is $8,000, and the third prize is $5,000.  

Beyond the competition, the Fighting Crime with Big Data Conference will address the presence of sex trafficking operations in Canada. Stuart Davis, executive vice president of Scotiabank’s Financial Crimes Risk Management division, will provide opening remarks alongside Professor Yousie and Professor Irene M. Wiecek. Through his roles within various financial institutions, Davis has worked to dismantle online child exploitation, human trafficking, and money laundering. Ian Mitchell, founder of The Knoble—a non-profit organization that fights crimes such as human trafficking, elder abuse, and child exploitation—will also be one of the speakers, among others participating in the conference. 

Professor Yousie has indicated that “The conference is open to all students. You will not need an understanding of computational science, statistics, or math to find value in this conference.” Attendees will have a chance to network and chat with industry professionals as well as other students. Registration for the conference is available online, and walk-ins on the day are also welcome.


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