GIS For Crime Mapping

Geographic Information Systems crime mapping technology enables law
enforcement agencies to analyze and correlate data sources to create a detailed snapshot of crime incidents and related factors within a community or other geographical area. Interest in this technology within the law enforcement community appears to be gaining momentum.

Crime mapping allows law enforcement agencies to plot crime-related data against a digitized map of a community, city, or region. Crime-related data
then can be compared and analyzed with other external data sources. Most agencies and people that use GIS mapping use external sources as census data, city planning data, parks information, property assessment data, utilities information, and other data sources in conjunction with their crime data. This suggests that many departments consider spatial relationships between crime and other community-level

One such analysis that has been recently used in a classroom setup is the Elsies River Crime Relation to the Illegal Liquor stores that surrounded the area.

Elsies River Area map outlining the relationship between illegal liquor outlets and the crime rate in the area.

Crime incident data can be geocoded (assigning an x and y coordinate to an address so it can be placed on a map) by using either street center lines (every address within a block is encoded) or parcels (each piece of land that can be bought or sold is encoded).

What can Crime Mapping be used for?

Deeper analysis & mapping can also be used to prevent the occurrences of such crime in any given area through the analysis of patterns and relationships. With the right tools at the disposal of these law enforcement agencies, we will actually notice a decrease in the rate of crime that occurs everyday.

Other uses of crime mapping can be to:

  • inform officers and investigators of crime scene locations
  • make resource allocation decisions
  • evaluate interventions
  • inform residents about crime activity and changes in their community
  • identify repeat calls for service and also locate emergency calls through cellphone pinging.

Current challenges in Crime Mapping

Significant costs exist in setting up a crime mapping system, including those related to accessing and cleaning data, importing data into the GIS, and maintaining the GIS, as well as related training and implementation issues.

Resource limitations can be one of the major challenges that can be faced in the implementation of such technology in Law Enforcement units.

The issue of security risks and breach is the most feared among agencies. This basically means that computer systems where data is stored and visualized from has to be highly encrypted to prevent any attacks by perpetrators who might use this data and information to their advantage in organizing crime activities.

About the Author


Kumbirai is a 4th year Surveying & Geomatics students at the Midlands State University in Zimbabwe. He is also the Founder and Team Lead at African Surveyors Connect. He enjoys spending time writing web-applications and is more of a GIS enthusiast who mainly focuses and grew interests in Health and Land Administrative Applications of Geographic Systems.

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