Wednesday, June 17, 2009

GIS geek this week

Guilty. I confess that I am a minor-league geek when it comes to geography, particularly geographic information systems—the computerized merger of databases and maps. Minor league, because I have no professional background or formal education in either of these disciplines. I got interested in GIS in the early 1990’s when I perceived that it could be a beneficial way of analyzing and understanding crime and disorder.

Appearances to the contrary, I am not at all infatuated with crime mapping. I think GIS can be a good tool, but the database is much more valuable than the pretty picture. If I had to pick, I’d take a table I can query over a map any day. Nonetheless, we human beings are pretty visual, and GIS can provide a view of data that makes relationships pop out that would otherwise be concealed in green-striped paper. As crime mapping has matured, I think police analysts have become far more interested in the analytical capabilities of GIS, rather than the map itself.

The weapon of choice at LPD is ArcGIS. Four employees use the high-end version, supported by a great crime analysis extension, CrimeView. For everyone else in the department, we deploy a splendid CrimeView intranet application that provides a great deal of capability in an easy-to-use interface. Finally, for the general public, we maintain CrimeView Community and participate in

What to we use GIS for? Essentially, it supports four functions. First, it provides us with excellent electronic maps on our PCs—even in our patrol cars. When you’re planning a special event, preparing for the execution of a search warrant, and involved in certain kinds of field operations it can be very valuable simply to have a map with basic geographic layers. With great aerial photos, these maps can really help us get oriented.

Second, GIS supports tactical analysis. We use GIS to help identify crime and disorder problems and target our resources towards these more effectively. Third, GIS supports strategic analysis. by helping to identify and understand broader problems that require more comprehensive and longer term approaches. Finally, we use GIS for investigative purposes, including crime scene investigation, surveillance, figuring out the identity of potential suspects, connecting crimes with common M.O.s, and more.

The links in this post will give you some good examples of these uses we make of geographic information systems. I’ll blog a little more about GIS as the week unfolds.


Steve said...

How long do you think it will be before one of these computer-based crime-fighting tools tells you what time to show up at a specific address to prevent an impending assault or something? This kind of makes me think of a recent promotion for motorcycle awareness where an OnStar type system warns the driver to look again before he takes off from the stop sign because there is a motorcycle approaching.

Anonymous said...

This is sort of related to the time-lapse hot-spot map link: Is it possible to cite a business owner or their landlord for maintaining a disorderly house? With the possible incarceration penalty for that offense, it might be a way to put some of the 14th & O area problem establishments under some extra pressure. Fines are sometimes accepted as a part of doing business, but eating that crummy jail bologna is another matter entirely. Too many drunken assaults down there on a regular basis.

Mary said...

Chief, you sell yourself short. Minor-league? I have been reading the blog for a while, and I believe MAJOR-league data geek would be the better description. And this is a great thing for our city. Knowledge is power and you know what's going on, not just in the world of numbers, but in our city.

ARRRRG!!!! said...

I think my software might be outdated. My maps look a little old.

Tom Casady said...

9:32 -

Possible, yes. We cite a few landlords and property owners every year for this offense. Those issued in 2009 (that I know of) have all been either dismissed or declined by the City Attorney's office.

The standard of proof is pretty high. Sometimes the mere fact that a citation has been issued, though, causes the alleged offender to sit up and take notice.


Thank you, that's a nice compliment.

ARRRRG!!!! -

Well, at least it's an electronic map--that's pretty modern.

For future reference, I believe the correct phrase should be:

"Methinks me softwarrrre be outdated. Me maps look a wee bit old."

ARRRRG!!!! said...

Duly noted. Apparently I didn't have the correct language selected on my computer..... I mean ARRRRG!!!!