Crime Mapping, Demographics of Illegal Activity

Crime map of Portland, Oregon that shows where crime is most prevelant

Crime mapping is a technique that assists law enforcement agents and officers in locating and analyzing crime hot spots and trends. This technique originated in the 1980s as a means for analyzing crime data through spatial correlations. In 1986, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) funded a project with the Chicago Police Department to use crime mapping in neighborhood safety. This was the first instance of crime mapping using computers. Students in criminal justice degree programs could use crime mapping in almost any law enforcement career they might pursue.

What is crime mapping?

In order to create a proper crime map, police forces must collate geographic data from crime reports as well as area landscapes.

Mapping and Analysis for Public Safety (MAPS) – The NIJ’s MAPS program assists criminal justice agencies in using geographic information systems (GIS) to improve public safety and reduce criminal activity.

Why map crimes? – The U.S. Department of Justice has analyzed the use of crime mapping and found that it not only helps law enforcement officials fight crime more effectively and efficiently, but also helps police and civilians better visualize geographic crime information. Criminal justice majors can learn more about this technique to better understand investigative methods used by law enforcement agencies nationwide.

Improving and understanding crime mapping – The NIJ hosts an annual conference to examine the use of GIS and mapping in law enforcement and try to improve it. The conference also focuses on trying to understand crime and criminal justice in geographic locations.

Catching missing details – The FBI has analyzed crime mapping and found that collecting and investigating spatial data can help law enforcement officials catch details about crimes that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. It is also extremely useful in analyzing crime hot spots and working to eradicate them.

Crime maps across the U.S.

A large number of law enforcement agencies use crime maps and make them available to civilians to improve public safety. This technique provides not only demographic information, but allows officers to predict crime hot spots.

County crime maps – The San Bernardino County Sheriff-Coroner Department offers crime maps broken down by city and stations in unincorporated county areas. These maps can be used by the public when relocating and by students in criminal justice degree programs for class work.

Crime map databases – The NIJ collects information on crime mapping to study spatial data policies and how crime mapping affects public safety in specific locations. This data can also be used by law enforcement officials to study crime history in their area.