US, October 17, 2014: Police agencies across the globe have been using GIS for mapping crime, identifying crime "hot spots," assigning officers, and profiling offenders, but little research has been done about the effectiveness of the technology in curbing crime, according to a study at Sam Houston State University (SHSU).
"This review provides a reality check on the current status of GIS assessment in policing and the findings are not positive," said Yan Zhang, a SHSU professor and co-author of the study. “Published accounts of applications in policing suggest a significant role in crime analysis and strategic deployment. Nonetheless, there is a total lack of independent evaluation of GIS effect in policing organisations,” she noted.
According to a 2001 survey by the National Institute of Justice, 62% of police departments with over 100 officers use GIS systems. Collectively, the technology has been credited with reducing crime, decreasing residential burglaries, tracking parolees and serious habitual offenders, and identifying hot spots with high concentrations of crime.
While there are multiple benefits of using GIS, current studies indicates that it is being used mainly to aid in the design of policing strategies and/or to evaluate the decision-making processes at law enforcement agencies. Zhang believes that multiplicity of functions and the diversity of the applications of a GIS inflates expected outcome.
The study conducted by Zhang was co-authored by Larry Hoover and Jihong (Solomon) Zhao at SHSU's College of Criminal Justice, and was published by the International Journal of Applied Geospatial Research.