Thursday, June 18, 2009

How GIS has changed

It has now been more than 12 years since we first stuck our police toe in the GIS water. When LPD started using ArcView 3.1, it took a chunk of money and a lot of time to do geographic crime analysis. The hardware and software were expensive, the training curve steep, and months were required to get productive. The process of gathering, cleaning, and geocoding police data was tedious and time consuming.

All this has changed. In 1997, making a map of the burglaries in Lincoln would be an all-morning task for a skilled analyst using the best department PC with a few grand worth of software. Today, anyone with an Internet connection can do it in a few clicks. The general public can even do it, at any one of several public websites. For the simple stuff, GIS is self-service. Analysts today (at least in Lincoln) can spend their time on more comprehensive and sophisticated work as a result.

I sometimes wonder where this is all going. Many years ago, I predicted that GIS would become a ubiquitous computer desktop staple. I was sort of right, in that most everyone uses GIS these days, but what actually emerged were web mapping services and hundreds of sites that leverage these to incorporate mapping in all sorts of web sites.

The next big thing I see is the increased use and sophistication of remote sensing: gathering information about what’s happening at places without actually being there. The changes are coming rapidly.

Below is a screen shot from my monitor. In the top frame, I have ArcMap opened, with the City’s aerial photos displayed. At the bottom, there are three windows. From left to right they are: oblique aerial photos (“bird’s eye”) from Microsoft’s Virutal Earth—a very different perspective; the view from the City of Lincoln Public Works Department traffic camera at 27th and Pine Lake Rd. (live and interactive on my monitor, though this is just a snapshot); the street level view, using Google Maps StreetView. If I had more space on the screen, I would have included the panoramic view, from

None of this existed two years ago. It’s remarkable, but it’s only the beginning.

click image to enlarge


Anonymous said...

My question has nothing to do with police work but you are one of the most savvy Computer mapping people I know of.
So let me pick your brain.

For years I have been concerned about water issues in Nebraska and other Western States. At times we have severe floods in some areas while we are rapidly depleting underground water in the Ogallala Aquifer.

Do you know of any mapping service that could track the most efficient path that flood waters could be moved through in a pipeline to another location? I have speculated that wind power might be used to move surplus water to areas of the country where it is needed. It is beyond my capability at this time. Hopefully some Grad student might see this as a good subject for study.
Gun Nut

Anonymous said...

I'm still hoping that CVC will eventually offer the ability to map more incident types, such as disturbances (including domestics, because their repeat nature could be enlightening), loud party calls, runaways, etc.

Tom Casady said...

Gun Nut-

Hydrology is among the earliest and most important GIS fields. You are way out of my league, but if you just Google ogallala aquifer gis, you'll have enough hits and links to completely ruin your enjoyment of the U.S. Open over the next four days.

Anonymous said...

A quick reminder to your regular readers - you're on KFOR 1240 Lincoln Live today from 11am-Noon, aren't you, or is that next week?

Tom Casady said...

10:09 -

Not today, that will be next Thursday, June 25.

Steve said...

The problem with so much of this new software is that there seems to be a never-ending string of glitches that require constant downloading and installation of updates. There are so many different browsers, email programs, etc., and it seems any new application only works correctly with certain ones.

I even had trouble opening links in The Chief's Corner after "upgrading" my browser yesterday. It somehow changed the way popup blocker worked, and things I had no problem with before were suddenly inaccessible. After some tedious, time-consuming, frustrating, investigation, I finally figured out all I needed to do was to "allow popups" from this particular web site by clicking on an option in the tool bar.

Anonymous said...

I think that it is great that the Lincoln Police are staying at the top in their use of technology to help fight crime for the city of Lincoln. I was wondering how new or advanced the breathalyzers are that Lincoln police use? I have been reading a lot about people convicted of D.U.I.'s in multiple states including Nebraska where after looking at the source code of the machines being used it turns out the breathalyzers were faulty as the source code is not coded correctly and the cases were thrown out while the police forces were forced to buy new machines with accurate code. Does Lincoln use a breathalyzer that is accurate and up to date? or is it just time tell someone uses this as a defense for a D.U.I. in Lincoln?

Anonymous said...

Though commonly spelled several different ways, the true spelling of the aquifer in question is Oglala. Sorry to be pedantic.