Digitalization of police records such as crime records and service calls may provide decision makers with important information regarding crimes trends, series, and patterns. Crime mapping is technique that coordinates and enhances the analysis of crime data already in the possession of law enforcement agencies. Crime mapping combines multiple intelligence resources to establish a unify structure that improves data analysis at a low cost. Geographic information system (GIS) assists in the mapping as well as in the geographical analysis of known crime records and service calls. GIS relies on geocoding, a method that references incident location to be mapped within a GIS.
One disadvantage of crime mapping is that only does it require a large volume of information in order to be effective, but also the information must be retrieved from police data bases. In addition, the data must be processed into a format that is acceptable by the GIS. Often police databases are incompatible with GIS software which also poses difficulties coordinating the data.
Serial crime investigations or criminal profiling assume that offenders commit crimes in area they are most familiar with and away from their home address. Hence crime mapping is useful to determine the likely area of residence belonging to these offenders. A specialist analyst is needed to perform the analysis due to the sensitive nature of these offenses. High volume analysis focuses on local areas or division, demands of this type of analysis varies depending on local crime rates. This type of crime mapping is restricted to geographical boundaries.
In UK, crime mapping has been applied to drug incidents, gang violence, and serial rapist investigations. While crime mapping can assist law enforcement authorities in formulating crime reduction strategies, it is also prone to implementation issues. Due to the highly technical nature of crime mapping, police department may have to employ skilled IT professionals. Often these professionals do not understand the user requirements associated with crime mapping. Thus, of the 52 police forces in the UK, only 23 forces had crime mapping capabilities at the divisional level. Crime mapping is more effective in a decentralized environment where the user-implementation is more prominent.
This article is unique in that it focuses on law enforcement intelligence analysis from a former police officer’s perspective. Hence, the author is familiar with the subject matter which adds more credibility to the content presented on this article. Although the author’s focus is on the UK police departments and how crime mapping is likely to be beneficial for them, crime mapping can be utilized as a universal tool to identify crime trends and series in any part of the world. Crime occurs everywhere to varying degrees. Crime mapping has the potential to assist decision makers with formulating strategies to combat crime. Crime mapping can also serve as a visual tool for identifying crime trends and patterns. A police department with a good budget and enough experts can easily adopt this method. However, it is likely to be more beneficial for areas with high crime rates. Serial crimes are rare in occurrence and these crime trends are more easily identified than high volume crime. I’m unfamiliar with the cost of maintaining this type of analytic tool (GIS), but it may not be worth the money to adopt this technique to analyze serial crimes.
The author identified a number of advantages and disadvantages to adopting crime mapping as an analytical tool. Most disadvantages arose from difficulties in processing data before it is entered into the GIS software and having to employ IT professionals to maintain the GIS software. This article is a bit outdated as it was published in 2000. It seems crime mapping was in it early stages of development in 2000. Due to technological advances within the past 13 years, it is likely that crime mapping has become more automated in the early stages of analysis, while the later stages of analysis is conducted by experts. Also, in recent years most organizations have maintained IT departments. Therefore, it is safe to assume that police departments may not have to create an IT department just to maintain the software.
Although GIS software is capable of analyzing data across jurisdictions, I agree with the author in terms of utilizing crime mapping to organize and analyze data at local or divisional levels. If GIS is used to analyze crime patterns across a number of jurisdictions, the final out put is highly likely to be effected by the amount of communication between police departments and the amount of crime data shared between police departments. For the past few months, I have learned that in the United States there is a lack of intelligence sharing and lack of communication between agencies in the intelligence community. Assuming that this is true of law enforcement agencies in the United States, GIS is more beneficial for analyzing local crime data. However, it is important to emphasize that this is not a limitation in the crime mapping technique, but rather a limitation created by human error.
Ratcliffe, J. (1999). Implementing and Integrating Crime Mapping into a Police Intelligence environment. International Journal of Police Science & Management, 2(4), 313-323. Retrieved from http://www.jratcliffe.net/papers/Ratcliffe (2000) Implementing and integrating crime mapping.pdfhttp://www.jratcliffe.net/papers/Ratcliffe (2000) Implementing and integrating crime mapping.pdf