Could Google Trends Be Used to Predict Methamphetamine-Related Crime? An Analysis of Search Volume Data in Switzerland, Germany, and Austria.

Gamma, Alex; Schleifer, Roman; Weinmann, Wolfgang; Buadze, Anna; Liebrenz, Michael (2016). Could Google Trends Be Used to Predict Methamphetamine-Related Crime? An Analysis of Search Volume Data in Switzerland, Germany, and Austria. PLoS ONE, 11(11), e0166566. Public Library of Science 10.1371/journal.pone.0166566

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OBJECTIVE To compare the time trends of Google search interest in methamphetamine and criminal offences related to this drug. METHODS Google Trends data for the search term "meth" was compared to methamphetamine-related crime statistics (incl. use, possession, and dealing) in Switzerland, Germany, and Austria for the years 2004-2016. Google data was availably monthly. Crime data was available yearly, and monthly values were imputed. RESULTS On the country level, internet search trends for "meth" roughly paralleled relevant criminal activity. State-level data, which was available for Austria, showed more heterogeneity. Cross-correlations for yearly data almost always peaked at a lag time of 0 and coefficients were mostly between 0.7 and 1.0 on the country level, and between 0.5 to 1.0 on the state level. Monthly cross-correlations based on imputed values were substantially lower, ranging from 0 to 0.6. CONCLUSIONS These results encourage the further evaluation by law enforcement authorities of Google search activity as a possible predictor of methamphetamine-related crime. However, several limitations, in particular the crude temporal resolution of available crime data, precluded a detailed assessment of the relationship between internet search trends and the development of methamphetamine-related crime in central Europe.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

04 Faculty of Medicine > Service Sector > Institute of Legal Medicine > Forensic Psychiatric Services
04 Faculty of Medicine > Service Sector > Institute of Legal Medicine > Forensic Chemistry and Toxicology
04 Faculty of Medicine > Service Sector > Institute of Legal Medicine

UniBE Contributor:

Schleifer, Roman; Weinmann, Wolfgang and Liebrenz, Michael

Subjects:

600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health

ISSN:

1932-6203

Publisher:

Public Library of Science

Language:

English

Submitter:

Antoinette Angehrn

Date Deposited:

27 Dec 2016 16:46

Last Modified:

27 Dec 2016 16:46

Publisher DOI:

10.1371/journal.pone.0166566

PubMed ID:

27902717

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.91155

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/91155

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