One of the standout roles of GIS today is in crime mapping and tracking. It is very helpful for people to be able to check crime reports on a map to get a fast idea of what's happening in their neighborhood, and these maps have also started playing a part in law enforcement's efforts to better distribute officers and community teams. The jury is still out on whether these efforts truly are working to reduce crime, but one thing is for sure: when you can access a map of crimes between certain dates or of certain types, that does help you figure out what a neighborhood is really like — and help track what law enforcement is doing, too.
Keep Residents up to Date About the Latest Neighborhood Crimes
Services that use GIS to map crimes from reports provided to the service by law enforcement departments allow people who are moving to check out what a new neighborhood might be like. These maps get down to street level, and by checking these over a period of time, you can get a sense of what you might be in for if you moved to a particular area.
For example, hearing that an area has a bad reputation for crime doesn't help, but seeing a map that shows all that crime is classified as misdemeanor vandalism gives you more specific information. You might find that the home you want to buy is on a street that is consistently quiet in terms of crime, and all the problems people warned you about are a few blocks away at a specific strip mall. If it seems like crime is increasing in your current neighborhood, you can look it up on these GIS maps and see if your perception matches reality.
Help Law Enforcement Look for Specific Patterns
These maps may help law enforcement, too. Detectives can keep track of certain types of crime to determine patterns that might catch serial criminals. These detectives will have records already, but a GIS map that can be easily updated gives the detective a nice summary of what's been going on where. For example, a series of break-ins may show that they are all within a certain radius of one point, which gives the detectives a potential place to look for the criminals.
Track Law Enforcement Activity
There has been increased focus on law enforcement activity that targets certain races and neighborhoods. GIS mapping can be one tool in the kit that reporters, legal teams, and government officials use to see if police are targeting one area more than others for reasons other than actually increased crime. It's possible to take reports from police and map them, showing whether the activity seems to cluster in low-income areas or at specific locations. A team looking for patterns of unfair policing can use these clusters to further investigate what was really going on. Or, a legal team looking further into policing patterns might map each stop with the civilian's race to get a snapshot of potential racial profiling.
GIS mapping technologies have brought data visualization to a new level. Whether you're interested in tracking crime or want to create data maps for other fields, GIS is an excellent choice.