Growing concerns exist about violent crimes perpetrated by U.S. military personnel. Although interventions exist to reduce violent crimes in high-risk populations, optimal implementation requires evidence-based targeting. The goal of the current study was to use machine learning methods (stepwise and penalized regression; random forests) to develop models to predict minor violent crime perpetration among U.S. Army soldiers. Predictors were abstracted from administrative data available for all 975,057 soldiers in the U.S. Army 2004–2009, among whom 25,966 men and 2728 women committed a first founded minor violent crime (simple assault, blackmail-extortion-intimidation, rioting, harassment). Temporally prior administrative records measuring socio-demographic, Army career, criminal justice, medical/pharmacy, and contextual variables were used to build separate male and female prediction models that were then tested in an independent 2011–2013 sample. Final model predictors included young age, low education, early career stage, prior crime involvement, and outpatient treatment for diverse emotional and substance use problems. Area under the receiver operating characteristic curve was 0.79 (for men and women) in the 2004–2009 training sample and 0.74–0.82 (men-women) in the 2011–2013 test sample. 30.5–28.9% (men-women) of all administratively-recorded crimes in 2004–2009 were committed by the 5% of soldiers having highest predicted risk, with similar proportions (28.5–29.0%) when the 2004–2009 coefficients were applied to the 2011–2013 test sample. These results suggest that it may be possible to target soldiers at high-risk of violence perpetration for preventive interventions, although final decisions about such interventions would require weighing predicted effectiveness against intervention costs and competing risks.
David M. Benedek et al., Using Administrative Data to Identify U.S. Army Soldiers at High-Risk of Perpetrating Minor Violent Crimes, 84 Journal of Psychiatric Research 128–136 (2017).