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GIS helps in effective analysis of crime patterns

Mike King, Geospatial Law Enforcement Expert.

Whether investigating repetitive crimes with lone-wolf perpetrators or sophisticated criminal organizations, you can manage special operations and understand trends and patterns with GIS, says Mike King, Geospatial Law Enforcement Expert in an exclusive interview with Geospatial World.

How extensively is mapping being used by major intelligence agencies like the FBI for criminal profiling?

The profiling process, often sensationalized by television and movies, is in reality a systematic approach to the investigative process. This includes the culmination of traditional forms of evidence, behavioral profiling and geographic mapping. Agencies around the world rely upon ArcGIS and GIS technologies alike for mapping, routing and crime analysis functions. It provides insight into demographics, historical imagery and visualization of initial contact sites, crime scenes and disposal sites. Whether you’re investigating repetitive crimes with lone-wolf perpetrators or sophisticated criminal organizations, you can better analyze crime patterns or manage special operations and understand trends and patterns with GIS.

Can GIS enable faster and more efficient crime scene investigation?

Law enforcement and crime scene investigators rely on ArcGIS to document crime and accident scenes by using easy-to-configure web applications like Collector, or Survey123, to show evidentiary and general points of interest in a geographic way. Locations can be collected using high accuracy GPS collection tools or by visually placing information on a map via desktop or mobile applications. Adding content like recently flown drone imagery or ingesting data with building information models or 3D data makes maps more powerful tools for accident re-creation, investigation or for courtroom presentations.

What role can location technology play in streamlining emergency response?

Location technology is widely used throughout the call reception process and as part of the call-routing function, where the emergency call is routed to the appropriate PSAP (public safety answering point) or command and control facility. There, location is used to identify which first-responders should be assigned to the call for service and optimize routes to the scene (taking into account traffic, roadblocks, detours, etc.).  GIS provides agencies with the capability to better understand, update and maintain address databases, crucial for identifying and providing dispatchable locations.

Mapping is already being used to map and track opioid addiction, and it has been successful. What do you think are other areas where this could be extended?

GIS is used in nearly every industry on the planet.  Everything is, in reality, a location on a map. GIS is used by public safety agencies for planning and analysis, operations, situational awareness, offender management, damage assessments, fire hydrant inspections and much more.

How reliable are crowdsourced real-time crime tracking apps? Is there any risk of increasing vigilantism with the easy availability of this data?

Anytime we rely upon crowdsourcing, there must be a level of pessimism regarding the reliability of the data received. In addition, information that is simply re-broadcast by others is not indicative of consensus. Volume from multiple sources could add credibility to the claims, but caution must always be present and analysed against more authoritative sources.

How to enhance public safety and reduce the possibility of violent crimes using GIS and location technology?

Agencies worldwide are using GIS to analyse crime and use that analysis to understand trends, recurring events and emerging patterns. That analysis and the resultant visualizations can be used to forecast areas of concern, provide decision-makers with insight based on intelligence and lead to crime reduction strategies.

Is there a need for a paradigm shift in security, putting location at the heart of it and coupling location analytics with human intelligence? What could be done to develop such a system?

Everything we deal with in public safety has location attached to it: the location of a crime, where the offender lives, works or is located, where evidence is collected, etc. Leveraging an investment in GIS will add additional analysis and insight to existing data and provide a better understanding of the situation, circumstance and environment. GIS is not the silver bullet to improved security but is an integral component that should not be underestimated.