Developing of crime prevalence maps has always been important while analyzing instances of criminal offences. The maps have always been regarded to be important tools for managing the allocation of personnel and resources. The process of developing maps has been evolving for a long time. There was the time that crime analysis and map development used to be accomplished manually. Currently, the process has greatly improved. The improvement has resulted from the incorporation of technology, and it has also facilitated data retention (Chainey & Ratcliffe, 2005). When crime maps were being developed manually, it was challenging to retain the information being attained through crime analysis, especially, when the removal of the pins became necessary. The maps had to be photographed so that the mapping information could be retained. It became very difficult to represents those events and crime patterns in any other form for the purpose of distribution to the officers in charge of street operations. Furthermore, the maps could become crowded quite easily. Again, it was difficult to add or remove datasets as the scales could not be altered. Such limitations were reduced with the application of new technologies during the mapping of crimes (Chainey & Ratcliffe, 2005).
The first relief came with the introduction of mainframe computers in the early 1970s. Their introduction allowed for the processing of a large amount of data as much as it could be visually represented on maps. The representation helped in locating criminal activities with much ease. Nevertheless, the associated costs, as well as the limited accessibility to mainframe computers, restricted crime mapping and other specialized practices, a challenge which remained until the introduction of personal computers (Mathieu, 2002). During the 1990s, personal computers, in conjunction with the evolution of the commercial mapping and analyses, enhanced the crime mapping activities. In America, the 1994’s passage of the Law Enforcement and Violent Crime Control act was presumed to be a significant boost towards the implementation of geographical information system since the government was tasked with the necessity of availing an extra amount of resources towards the crime prevention programs. More recently, several businesses have initiated the development of crime data analytics in endeavor to mitigate the factors that avail the criminal opportunists with the chances of executing their missions (Mathieu, 2002; Ainsworth, 2001).
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Modern policing utilizes technology behind the geographical information system, i.e. GIS, in the endeavor to empower those law enforcement activities that are meant to contain crime. The availability of powerful and easy-to-use applications as well as their reducing costs of implementation has enabled police forces to work more reliably and efficiently. Although large cities have been utilizing the GIS for spatial visualization and analysis, their use in small and average cities is just taking shape. In fact, small and medium-sized agencies are finding GIS helpful in their endeavors to arrest criminals as well as in the accomplishment of several other activities that are found necessary while protecting communities (Ott & Swiaczny, 2001).
Geographic information system is a web-based solution which avail information from several agencies in endeavor to accomplish the reduction in crime. The solution has been employed in several locations in the world as the police forces step-up the fight against crime. In most European cities, authorities have reported a significant reduction in the number and complexity of the crimes that are reported. In Europe, much of the crime constitutes the low-level antisocial behavior (Chainey & Ratcliffe, 2005). However, these behaviors instill fear and vulnerability to the society that has not witnessed much of the violence that accompany criminality in other locations of the world. In this regard, criminality or its potential has preoccupied discussions and forums around the continent as individuals regard such behaviors to be disorienting. Even though the impact of much of the witnessed antisocial behavior is minimal, tackling such behaviors has been a matter of national priority in the UK since 1997 (Chainey & Ratcliffe, 2005).
In view of the above discourse, the UK government has recognized the need of utilizing the ability that is availed by the evolution of information technology in tackling crimes. Most local, as well as central governments, have embarked on the strategy of improving the level of service delivery on matters relating to crimes. For instance, the UK government has been rolling out an ambitious plan of availing e-governance in every police authority in the country. The e-governance is regarded as the best method of ensuring the achievement of 100 percent capability in the police service delivery. GIS facilitates data sharing as well as the joining-up of the pieces of information for the purpose of facilitating crime analysis (Ott & Swiaczny, 2001).
Through the sharing of information, various sections of a police force are joined-up. In that case, they are able to share resources and personnel during the crime reduction exercises. GIS facilitates various demographic analyses, and these analyses facilitate the designing and implementation of public spaces, housing schemes, and street lightings. Such designs help in reducing opportunities where criminality, as well as various forms of antisocial behavior, can be accomplished. The implementation of GIS enables that a police force accomplishes on-demand analyses of data so as to make a timely reporting on the information of interest. The ability to generate and manipulate statistics facilitates the measuring performance on a day-to-day basis. In this case, plans for the future are implemented by the situation that helps in containing criminality (Geirinhas, 2001).
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The Use of GIS in Cities around the World
One of the agencies that have found the implementation of GIS helpful during crime control is the Columbia Police Department, an agency with just 400 officers. At the Columbian Police Department, GIS is assisting commanders, patrol officers, and crime analysts during the analysis of crime patterns. The GIS facilitates an efficient utilization of the funds and resources that the government of the state of South Carolina avails to the agency (Geirinhas, 2001). As such, the agency has managed to offer improved services to 117,000 people who regard the city of Columbia to be their home. The Columbian Police Department has implemented various Crime Analysis Tools that facilitate the monitoring of crime patterns in the manner that was difficult to accomplish before. The Crime Analysis Tools have been helpful during the forecasting of future incidents, the situation which, consequently, facilitates the creation of an operating outline. The outline enables the commanders to make enhanced decisions with regard to their ground operations in the areas under their control (Santos & Machado, 2007).
At the Columbian Police Department, several comparative analyses are conducted on the basis of the incidences that have been recorded and summarized. Such an analysis is conducted on weekly, monthly, as well as yearly dating basis. Pieces of data relating to sexual assaults, homicides, armed robberies, commercial robberies, aggravated assaults, carjacking, motor vehicle theft, and larceny are analyzed for the purpose of mapping. The mapped information is then shared by the entire agency, the situation that assists the police department in a number of ways. For instance, the officers are able to spot and interpret crime trends (Sherman & Bushway, 1998). Such knowledge enables them to decide on the sections of the city where patrols ought to be concentrated. In essence, the GIS and associated software applications enable the officers to plan their duties so as to avoid having to engage in difficult yet futile activities. For instance, even the most proficient police force may be patrolling a section of the city while criminalities happen to be continuing in another section that happens to be out of sight. With the enhancement that is availed by the evolution in technology, officers are able to focus their efforts on the most relevant areas of the city (Sherman & Bushway, 1998).
According to the Police Chief in the city of Columbia, Dean Crisp Jr., crime rates in the city have fallen unprecedentedly since the implementation and utilization of the GIS mapping have been beginning. The police chief concurs with the popular belief that the GIS provides the basis upon which the commanders as well as the analysts refocus their attention for the purpose of identifying and solving challenges that face the department. Their duties are lightened by the capacity to utilize computers and the relevant applications to manipulate statistics. The police chief argues that in 2011, the use of GIS-enabled his force to record the lowest levels of crime in almost two decades (Ferreira, 2008).
The use of GIS at the Philadelphia Police Department
Upon their consideration of variety of data analysis technologies, various police departments around the world have recognized that it would be advantageous for them to utilize the facilities that GIS avails. This helps in tackling crime locally, although the level of success varies. Cities around the world utilize base map data and aerial photography to avail other data sets for an easy integration within a crime analysis unit (Johnson, 2000). This solution is made possible by the technology behind the GIS. Various Crime Analysis Tools enable police forces to analyze a variety of data sets in an efficient manner. This is possible since the officers are able to assume various perspectives. The perspectives enable them to map layers in such a manner that makes them accessible via the GIS database. This method has proved to be powerful and yet an easy way of accomplishing the testing and analyses of what-if scenarios. As such, police officers are able to predict the happenings in the community at all times (Ferreira, 2008).
The Philadelphia Police Department / PPD/ handles over three million emergency calls on a yearly basis. This workload is overwhelming, especially due to the limited number of staff members. Of late, the department has found the strategy that facilitates its management and information sharing. The strategy involves the use of sophisticated geographical databases that facilitates the generation of updated crime maps (Boba, 2009). The 1997 launching of the Crime Analysis and Mapping Unit revolutionized the operations at PPD in a remarkable manner. With its small staff of an officer and three civilians, the department is able to serve in such a manner that as much as 1,000 civilians and 7,000 officers would. Since the launching of the department, the department has been able to utilize the GIS infrastructure in curbing criminality to its minimum levels (Smith & Wilson, 2008).