For more than a decade, the criminal justice community has realized the valuable analytic benefits of Geographic Information Systems (GIS). This powerful technology enhances the ability of researchers and practitioners to identify problem areas and target scarce resources. To promote the use of GIS throughout the criminal justice system, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) established Mapping and Analysis for Public Safety (MAPS), formerly the Crime Mapping Research Center, in 1997. A year later, NIJ created the Crime Mapping and Analysis Program, a training resource at the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology CenterRocky Mountain, in Denver, Colorado. NIJs investment in crime mapping was timely because the value of GIS had been demonstrated with early successes in the analysis of criminal behavior. As a result, NIJ has supported the allocation of resources, the organization of data, and the evaluation of programs and initiatives to increase awareness of GIS as a crime-fighting tool.
NIJs crime-mapping efforts have yielded five national conferences on the study and use of crime mapping, each drawing more than 600 attendees. MAPS conducts research in the field of analytic crime mapping and offers guidance and leadership to criminal justice agencies nationwide. In addition, MAPS promotes, evaluates, develops, and disseminates GIS technology. Through partnerships and other federally funded programs, NIJ has helped develop crime-mapping software. Some software applications can be downloaded free from the MAPS Web site.
Although great strides have been made in disseminating GIS technology to local law enforcement agencies, NIJ continues to explore new uses for GIS in the criminal justice field. One natural application NIJ is focusing on is the more efficient allocation of victims services and resources.
This report introduces GIS to state Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) administrators and victim service providers to improve the methods by which victim compensation and victim assistance are provided to states. VOCA administrators will learn how to manage the strategic planning efforts behind crime mapping and how GIS can serve as a key vehicle in the decisionmaking process.
Sarah V. Hart, Director