DENVER (KDVR) — The debate over mass shooting prevention is usually centered on guns, building security, the actors themselves, and law enforcement. One University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign professor believes artificial intelligence should be part of the conversation.

Sheldon Jacobsen is a data scientist who looks at trends in a variety of things including mass murders. He has used AI to find possible trends in mass killing incidents with the goal to save lives and possibly even prevent them.

So far in 2023, there have been 13 mass killings which Jacobsen defines as four or more people dead, totaling 77 people killed.

He said AI uses models to analyze data and then make observations on trends and patterns. It looks at the venue, the shooter, the deaths, the law enforcement response, and more.

In analyzing the data of these incidents over the last several years, he’s made a few observations. Jacobsen believes rapid response by law enforcement is key.

“There is no room for hesitation. Once anything is emerging, it’s far better to respond, and in some sense over-respond to it, rather than wait and see. Wait and see can be very destructive and fatal to a lot of people and we don’t want to see it. We saw that in Uvalde and we don’t want to see that again. I think what happened in Nashville, the law enforcement officers took decisive, timely action and it really didn’t make a difference in this particular case,” Jacobsen said. “We have to keep learning and keep improving so that we can move forward.”

As far as possible predictions, he said that ultimately this tool has found that most mass killings are random, and the profile of the shooters has changed over time.

“The interesting thing is that we’ve seen some more unusual assailants in the last several months,” Jacobsen said. “As a result of that, we’re starting to see a difference, which means that any kind of profiling data that we have literally gets thrown out because it’s changing. That’s why I think we have to be very careful to get pigeonholed into a [stereotype] because the fact is, it changes. It changes over time. So the kinds of models that we use, I consider them to be profiling agnostic.”

When it comes to possible solutions, places where these shootings happen often weigh options to harden their security with armed officers, metal detectors, and entry vestibules.

“It really comes down to choices and investments because some schools want to harden themselves as much as possible, creating these multiple-entry point barriers and that’s fine there’s nothing wrong with that. The question is, what impact does this have on the perceptions of the children?” said Jacobsen. “So, we have to trade off the emotional response that the students are going to have to be in a facility that is so hard and that it no longer feels like a safe place just because of the hardening.”

As far as privacy concerns, Jacobsen said it’s important to determine what are we willing to give up versus the risks.