Is GIS Effective in Policing?


Most local police departments in the United States use Geographic Information Systems (GIS, aka crime mapping software) in crafting their crime-fighting strategies.

But a new Sam Houston State University study finds there’s been almost no evaluations of the technology’s effectiveness.

The study's author, Yan Zhang, examined published accounts of GIS use in policing, identifying four major uses: “computerized crime mapping/crime analysis; 'hot spots' identification; improving command-level decision making; and geographical investigative analysis (primarily offender profiling).”

The most widespread use of GIS technology is through CompStat, the officer accountability process and software developed by the New York Police Department in the 1990s, which has since spread to departments across the nation.

CompStat employs GIS to identify localized crime trends, which precinct commanders are then expected to use in devising strategy.

“Only two empirical evaluations have been published that examine crime mapping, and both are limited to effects on perceptions. No empirical work links GIS to police deployment effectiveness,” Zhang wrote.

The full study is available for purchase HERE.

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