New York Gov. George Pataki announced in 1999 a plan for a crime-mapping system that would link 500 police departments statewide. The Albany Times Union says the idea was for information in a central database to enable a detective sitting at a computer to accomplish in seconds what now takes some departments days of old-fashioned police work.
Four years later, the state has developed the system that many experts tout as a model. But enlisting participants has been tough. Only about 110 police agencies are feeding the system with data, and even fewer use it to help solve crimes, including the State Police. “The problem is that it’s a capital cost, and very often citizens say we want more cops on the beat instead of saying we want our cops to be more efficient,” said criminologist Michael Maltz of the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Maltz helped develop an early crime-mapping system for the Chicago Police Department, which allows the public to access it via the Internet and to get up-to-date information on crimes in their neighborhood. Similar systems are used in Charlotte, N.C., Phoenix and several cities in California.
Law enforcement experts say crime mapping is the future of policing, the Times Union says: “It has the potential to zero in on serial killers, redirect police resources to neighborhoods overrun by crime, break up car theft rings and give authorities a broader view of resurging problems — such as New York’s flourishing methamphetamine problem.”
Several big cities use crime mapping extensively, but but developing a statewide system to be used by the smallest police agencies is difficult.