Bringing Geography to the Practice of Analyzing Crime Through Technology

National Institute of Justice discussion paper NCJ 230757, June 2010

Ronald Wilson and Timothy Brown

“In 1997, NIJ established the Crime Mapping Research Center (CMRC), with a focus on using geographic information systems to visualize crime data and understand spatial patterns of criminal activity. CMRC’s efforts were intended to enhance crime analysis by State and local law enforcement and other criminal justice organizations. In 2002, NIJ transformed CMRC into the Mapping and Analysis for Public Safety (MAPS) program. This program focuses on integrating spatial statistics into the measurement of geographic crime patterns. When the program was expanded into NIJ’s Office of Science and Technology (OST), it began examining emerging technologies that would be key tools in crime analysis. Much of what the MAPS program does is called “crime mapping,” which involves more than plotting crime locations. Crime mapping is usually coupled with the use of a geographic information system (GIS), which is a tool for visualizing and manipulating geographic data used to prepare data for statistical analysis, as well as to display the output from analysis. The current use of spatial analysis in the study of crime has been aided by the development of computer GIS software, which is a dominant tool for analyzing crime data. Over the past few years, the MAPS program has funded several geospatial technology research projects intended to advance the collection and geographical analysis of crime data. Four of these projects are briefly described in this report. The report concludes with suggestions for future research and technology related to spatial analysis.”

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