Mapping applications for the millennium (continued)
Chapter 5: Synthesis and Applications

Courts and corrections

Crime mapping can be applied to the following courts and corrections areas.

  • Probation officer service areas. Caseload distributions can be managed by looking at the geographic location of probationers and parolees, and then using a mapping program, such as the ArcView Network Analyst, to determine the most efficient route for sequencing visits to homes, should visits be part of the designated probation officer's duties. If visits to individuals have to be made at specific times, a route can be designed to minimize time spent traveling from one address to the next. If time is not a factor, a route to minimize overall travel time can be determined (figure 5.10).

    Figure 5.10

    With the development of community probation, officers are now more likely to be assigned to small community areas so that they have closer contact with probationers and community resources, including police. A program, such as MapInfoŽ Redistricter, could be used to draw (and periodically redraw) districts based on the distribution of caseloads. Similarly, districts could be drawn to equalize workloads for serving warrants. Other applications in the probation field could include mapping dangerous areas where probation officers should be accompanied by a police officer or mapping areas that probationers are to avoid (figure 5.11).

    Figure 5.11

  • Prison location analysis. Prison building, a booming industry in recent decades, frequently runs into the NIMBY (not in my back yard) problem. Almost everyone agrees that prisons have to be built, but few communities (with the exception of rural locations desperate for jobs) want them next door. Prison location analysis is a specialized application of GIS. Location modeling has actually been in use for some time. The basic approach involves mapping vacant and redevelopable land as possible sites for building, then adding layers for exclusions (due to factors such as terrain, prohibited land uses, lack of utilities, and lack of adequate transportation links) to identify the sites with the greatest potential for development. These sites can then be reviewed and prioritized with further map analysis or field investigation.

    Another locational criterion could be the site's distance from communities supplying the majority of inmates. Prisons far from their feeder communities make visitation difficult and may fragment families. Minimizing travel time may be a consideration not only for families, but also for the department of corrections and the court system, because transporting prisoners to and from remote court offices will increase travel time and cost. The accessibility of a prison to a courthouse can be evaluated using ArcView Network Analyst (figure 5.12).

    Figure 5.12

  • Probationer and parolee locations. The mapping of home addresses of parolees and probationers, along with modus operandi data, enable law enforcement to quickly identify local parolees as potential perpetrators of particular crimes occurring in a neighborhood. This type of analysis is an integral part of the increasingly popular ComStat (computerized statistics) process that originated with the New York City Police Department, in which precinct commanders are quizzed regularly about crime patterns in their areas. A big screen monitor linked to a GIS can immediately show parolee locations in conjunction with offense locations (see chapter 3). Recidivism could also be mapped to identify hot spots and mobilize resources necessary to deal with the issue. Parole and probation agencies are rich in locational information that can be used to manage caseloads, including sex offender registries (figures 5.13 and 5.14).

    Figure 5.13

    Figure 5.14

  • Halfway house locations. Much like prisons or group homes for mentally disabled people, halfway houses provoke NIMBY reactions. Mapping demographics and housing types may help with site selection. In an example cited by Westerfeld (1999), a Baltimore community needed to be persuaded that halfway houses were appropriate in its neighborhoods. The strategy that was developed involved geocoding the home locations of all Maryland prison inmates originally from the community in question. Maps then showed where each inmate had lived. During community presentations, it became increasingly difficult for residents to oppose receiving people who originally resided in their neighborhoods.

    However, publicity about the high number of escapes from halfway houses in some jurisdictions compounds the difficulty of locating such facilities. One solution is to seek a zoning variance to permit residential facilities in what are otherwise industrial or commercial areas. Presumably, this is a last resort. A cynical solution suggests that poor, dysfunctional communities are likely to be incapable of mobilizing themselves politically so as to make the locating of halfway houses relatively free of opposition.

  • Offender access to services. A Delaware study (Harris, Huenke, and O'Connell, 1998) analyzed the availability of rehabilitative services for released offenders, looking at the spatial relationship between former inmate addresses, substance abuse treatment facilities, social service centers, mental health services, and unemployment offices. Nearly half of all released prisoners in Delaware return to prison within 3 years, leading to the conclusion that postprison rehabilitation services are inadequate, or at least inaccessible. Maps were used to justify the implementation of drug rehabilitation services in Kent County and the city of Dover.

  • Sentence mapping. A mapping application used occasionally by court systems deals with the need to ensure fair sentencing. Although judicial discretion has been reduced by mandatory sentencing, it has not been eliminated (and never will be, of course), and substantial disparity remains in the sentencing of similar people for similar crimes. Like police agencies, courts in both the State and Federal systems have territories. The mapping of sentences is more technically challenging than mapping crime incident data. However, it can be done using, for example, a weighting system that assigns higher weights to more severe sentences, making sure that analysis of offender characteristics and crime types is properly controlled for. (For details on this concept and examples of geographic analyses of sentencing, see Harries and Lura, 1974, and Harries and Brunn, 1978. For a discussion of geographic issues specifically relating to capital sentencing, see Harries and Cheatwood, 1997.)

  • Courtroom presentation. As noted in the discussion of figure 5.7, maps showing sequences of events and patterns can be used in court to provide an easily comprehended visual rendition of a criminal process. Such presentations may be constructed on any scale, from international drug trafficking to the layout of a murder scene in one room of a building. In figure 5.15, the information on a sequence of events involving sexual torture and hostage taking was mapped to provide the prosecution with a plausible chronology of events that could be readily communicated to judge and jury.

Figure 5.15

Public information

"Public information" is a phrase that evokes mixed emotions in police departments. Some make vast amounts of data readily accessible to the public through the Web, while others are reluctant to have a Web site at all, let alone include crime data on it. At the risk of stereotyping, it could be suggested that the more defensive posture tends to reflect "old school" thinking, whereas willingness to share data represents a more contemporary, "let the light shine in" approach, consistent with community policing values.

Even the most avid proponents of data access would concede that cases with ongoing investigations should be exempt for obvious reasons. However, beyond active cases and cases involving rape victims and juveniles, active concealment is difficult to justify. From a public policy perspective, one of the strongest justifications for open data access is that it makes putting a "political spin" on things somewhat more difficult. Every agency, at every level of government, wants to make itself look good, and to this end information is power. Limit information dissemination and the power of the opposition is crimped.

Some public constituencies also prefer to suppress crime data, and particularly crime mapping data, from public view for fear that their investments will be negatively affected. Such considerations seem of particular concern to realtors and some property owner's associations. The rationale is that any publicity about crime tends to depress property values. But what is overlooked is that publicity about crime may draw more attention to the problem with the possibility of remedial action. In this context, the possibility of long-term gain is sacrificed for short-term expediency.

The more prevalent perspective today is that an informed public can best assist law enforcement, given that police cannot be in all places at all times, and that policing will be most effective when it is performed in an environment in which the public offers active support. Clearly, maps are tools that can assist in this effort through their use at community meetings and their distribution to the media, citizen patrols, and neighborhood groups. However, maps must be tailored to each group, and a poorly designed or poorly presented map may do more harm than good by creating confusion where none may have existed before.

Internet media offer public information opportunities that go beyond merely having a Web site or providing maps. The Web also offers opportunities for feedback from the public via survey forms that solicit information about specific crimes or problem areas and neighborhood-specific bulletins. A review of police department Web sites linked through the Crime Mapping Research Center Web site (see appendix) demonstrates some of the many possibilities.

Resource allocation and planning

As noted in chapter 3, the fundamental principle behind resource allocation is the efficient assignment of valuable resources. In theory, at least, more resources should be assigned to areas where crime is most prevalent. It was suggested in chapter 3 that calls for service be used as either a crude or weighted index to help determine the allocation of patrol resources on a per-shift basis. A choropleth map of neighborhoods classified by their levels of CFS could be the tool used for planning resource allocation.

In a community policing context, this approach can be expanded by looking not only at the calls for service themselves, but at the local social conditions associated with high levels of CFS. This not only forms a foundation for planning direct law enforcement strategies, but also sets the scene for cooperation with other criminal justice system agencies and social service agencies. An example of this approach, applied in Cincinnati, is shown in figure 5.16. The choropleth map of calls for service by neighborhood and analysis of social indicators showed that the prevalence of nonowner-occupied housing was the strongest social correlate of CFS levels. Models that relate social conditions to levels of crime or CFS take many different forms, and examples can be found in the literature on the social ecology and geography of crime (Felson, 1998; Byrne and Sampson, 1986; Harries and Powell, 1994; Harries, 1995; Taub, Taylor, and Dunham, 1984; Bursik and Grasmick, 1993; and Rose and McClain, 1990).

Figure 5.16

Chapter 5: Synthesis and Applications
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Mapping Crime: Principle and Practice, by Keith Harries, Ph.D., December 1999