Geography, Spatial Analytics and Technology: NIJ's Mapping and Analysis
Crime mapping sits at the nexus of geography, social science and a variety of other disciplines. Analysts map crime using
geographic data, conduct analysis and report the results using cartographic products. By combining an array of data with cartographic
techniques and statistical methods, analysts can find solutions to complex social issues. Crime mapping can suggest ways to
better deploy law enforcement officers, use public safety resources more efficiently, devise stronger crime-prevention techniques
and obtain greater insight into crime.
The Evolution of Crime Mapping at NIJ
NIJ's initial crime mapping endeavors resulted in the creation of the Crime Mapping Research Center, which focused on spreading
the use of computerized mapping and surveyed police departments to learn how they were using analytic mapping techniques.
NIJ found that law enforcement officers had a significant interest in understanding how geospatial tools and geography could
help reduce and prevent crime. NIJ also determined that training would help law enforcement make better use of tools that
collect and use geographic information. This led to NIJ's supporting geographic information system (GIS) training programs
to teach law enforcement officers how to capture, analyze, store and present spatial data. GIS allows users to examine how
geography affects crime, as well as other topics, including urban planning, emergency services and home foreclosures.
In 2002, the Crime Mapping Research Center evolved into the Mapping and Analysis for Public Safety (MAPS) program, which focused
on mapping tools and the use of spatial analysis techniques. Four years later, MAPS shifted its focus to emphasize place-based
theories while still helping agencies use GIS to enhance public safety.
NIJ’s MAPS program funds research that uses GIS technologies to statistically analyze spatial data, which leads to a better
understanding of crime, more effective deployment of police and use of public safety resources, and stronger crime policies.
The fiscal year 2012 MAPS solicitation contained both theoretical and applied research approaches. Specifically, the solicitation
sought proposals for research on how micro-place and micro-time strategies (e.g., risk-terrain modeling, CompStat programs
and hot spot tactical deployment) are informed, supported or enhanced by criminological theory.
Past NIJ research has produced:
- CrimeStat, a spatial statistical program used to analyze crime locations and hot spots
- An iOS and Droid technology-based crime mapping application developed to help law enforcement officers understand spatial
and temporal crime patterns
- A mobile application that uses semiautomated 3D geocoding of Large Urban Structures (e.g., buildings, hallways, elevators
and stairways) to deploy effective emergency response and communication
NIJ's MAPS program is currently conducting intramural research on grid cell sizes and a multimethod exploration of hot spot
Date Created: June 21, 2012