Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Diffusion of Computerized Crime Mapping in Policing: Linking Research and Practice

Authors David Weisburd and Cynthia Lum conducted a research study in the Journal of Police Practice and Research, which examined the relationship between the research and the diffusion of computerized crime mapping in police departments in the United States. Crime mapping allows police departments and officers to see "hot spot" areas where crimes are taking place.  This allows the department to re-evaluate their distribution of resources and address areas which "attract" a certain type of crime at a certain frequency.

For this study police departments with at least 100 sworn officers were chosen random, to result in 125 police agencies.  Within each of these departments, individuals were contacted to determine if the department had computerized crime mapping capabilities, when it was implemented and the manner in which is was used.  To evaluate the use of computerized crime mapping, the researchers sent a survey to the randomly chosen agencies from September to November of 2001.  The purpose of this research was not only to determine if they use computerized crime mapping, but also the exact year they adopted it.

The authors determined that diffusion of computer crime mapping was seen after 1997 and a majority of the departments had adopted the mapping system by 2001. While there was an increase in technology, the authors argue that it was not sufficient enough to cause the widespread adoption of the technique.  Therefore, they propose that the combination of technological advances coupled with a change in the manner of policing led to the dissemination of computerized crime mapping.

This study provided an interesting analysis relating to the use of computerized crime mapping.  Though, a majority of the published article focused on the history of policing, specifically in the 1970's and 1980's.  During this time there was a change in the approach of policing, which eventually led to crime mapping.  While this study does not explicitly link the intelligence field, it provides a relevant insight into the analysis of crime. The change in the approach to policing allowed for the development of computerized crime mapping.  The analytic application of this method is applicable to the intelligence field and can be used not only for crimes, but also to map key areas where specific events are taking place.

Weisburd, D. & Lum, C. (2005). The diffusion of computerized crime mapping in policing: Linking research and practice. Police Practice and Research, 6(5), 419-34. Retrieved from http://ehis.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=4&sid=45180a6c-1beb-4f54-97d9-dc1ae165ccf1%40sessionmgr13&hid=6 


  1. It would have been useful if the article had actually gone in depth and explained the changes in policing that took place to allow for the more widespread use of crime mapping.The article is definitely right in saying that technology had an effect on the adoption of the technique, as the article I read said pretty much the same thing. It would also have been more interesting if the study looked more at the size of departments rather than just departments with over 100 sworn officers. The research I found suggested that after the 250 sworn officers point, departments were much more likely to use crime mapping.

  2. My article also stated that crime mapping is highly useful in terms distributing resources more efficiently. I also think it is useful in multiple other areas such as crime prevention efforts to monitoring the behavior of serial offenders. While doing some research on crime mapping I found it is oftentimes marketed towards larger police departments. I think by including and outright stating some of the very small departments were incorporated in the study it would be beneficial to proving its effectiveness in all law enforcement environments. Furthermore, given the quantity of the agencies used to conduct the study it would have been an effective study to emphasize crime mappings effectiveness in a smaller environment.

  3. I think the authors started off with an excellent idea- evaluate how research and diffusion of crime mapping interact. However, I feel that their analysis lacks detail where it could have been very easy to emphasize. They omit two very interesting points that I would have loved to hear about: the manner in which it was used for each department (which they state is on the survey) and why the department decided to adopt computerized crime mapping. I think that it would also be interesting to see how many departments use computerized crime mapping presently, and what size the department is.

  4. In the article I read, the author stated various reasons for why law enforcement agencies did not adopt the GIS technique, including that they were not introduced to the benefits of it and did not want to change their method of policing. Because this article was written only a year after the one I read, it would have been beneficial for Weisburd to elaborate on the reasons for why agencies began to use the technique in order to provide more insight into the motivating factors for particular officers. Crime mapping is a strategy every law enforcement agency should adopt but some may still not understand its benefit or how to integrate it into their current system.

  5. Cori -- I agree with you. It seems like there would information that is not only interesting relating to the reasons why departments started to use computerized crime mapping, but it would also give a little more insight into the diffusion of the method itself.