Chapter 6: Crime Mapping Futures

Rapid change is the order of the day in crime mapping. It's tempting to hold out and ride the next wave of innovation, skipping the present phase that is doomed to obsolescence as soon as the shrink-wrap comes off the software package or hardware box. This seems to have two advantages in the short term: minimizing costs and reducing the need for training. The problem with this approach is that the time is never right because another wave of innovation is always on its way.

Policing is undergoing a paradigm shift resembling the kind of change that Kuhn (1962) described three decades ago in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. A paradigm shift is the idea that, from time to time, various realms of human endeavor experience dramatic-almost revolutionary-changes. Kuhn applied the term to changes in science, such as the transition in biology from thinking in terms of whole organisms to a molecular or genetic perspective. Although it is pretentious to put changes in crime mapping on the same level with major changes in natural science, it is realistic to use the notion of a paradigm shift to understand the nature of changes in the technology of policing.

It is easy to underestimate or overestimate the rate of change and the long-term impact of technological changes in policing-including crime mapping. While current and future advances promise to lend substantial support to law enforcement, we should remember that technologies such as crime mapping are only tools and, like other tools, their benefits to society depend on the human agents who wield them.

Chapter 6: Crime Mapping Futures
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Mapping Crime: Principle and Practice, by Keith Harries, Ph.D., December 1999