Is Crime Mapping the Future of Crisis Mapping?

My new fascination is crime mapping.

The field of crisis mapping may still in its infancy, but crime mapping, relatively speaking, is a mature science. I have no doubt that many of the best practices, methods and software platforms developed for crime mapping are applicable to crisis mapping. This is why I plan to spend the next few months trying to get up to speed on crime mapping. If you’re interested in learning more about crime mapping, here’s how I’m getting up to speed.

First, I’m following the CrimeReports blog and Twitter feed.

Second, I got in touch with Professor Timothy Hart who is co-editor of the peer-reviewed journal Crime Mapping for some guidance. He suggested that a good place to start is with the primary criminology theory, from which many of the ideas found in the field of crime mapping grew.

To this end, Tim kindly recommended the following book:

In terms of the applied side of crime mapping, Tim recommended this book to gain a better understanding of theory in practice:

Third, I’ve registered to attend the 10th Crime Mapping Research Conference being held in New Orleans this August. And to think that I’m just co-organizing the first International Conference on Crisis Mapping, ICCM 2009. Yes, we’re 10 years behind. Just have a look at a sample of the presentations lined up:

  • The Spatial Dependency of Crime Dispersion.
  • A Time Geographic Approach to Crime Mapping.
  • Space-time Hotspots and their Prediction Accuracy.
  • Using Cluster Analysis to Identify Gang Mobility Patterns.
  • Defining Hotspots: Adding an Explanatory Power to Hotspot Mapping.
  • Application of Spatial Scan Statistic Methods to Crime Hot Spot Analysis.
  • Applying Key Spatial Theories to Understand Maps and Preventing Crime.
  • Using a Spatial Video to Capture Dynamically Changing Crime Geographies.

Fourth, I’m keeping track of news articles that refer to crime mapping, like the Wall Street Journal’s recent piece entitled “New Program Put Crime Stats on the Map.” According to the article,

Police say they use the sites to help change citizens’ behavior toward crime and encourage dialogue with communities so that more people might offer tips or leads. Some of the sites have crime-report blogs that examine activity in different locales. They also allow residents to offer tips and report crimes under way.

Is crime mapping the future of crisis mapping? Regardless of the answer, we have a lot to learn from our colleagues in the field of crime mapping as I plan to demonstrate in future blog posts. In the meantime, I hope that donors in the humanitarian and human rights communities realize that tremendous potential of crisis mapping given the value of added of maps for crime analysis.

Patrick Philippe Meier

7 responses to “Is Crime Mapping the Future of Crisis Mapping?

  1. Hey Patrick,

    My first comment on your website! I have gotten over your use of intimidating GIS/ICT terminology.

    I wanted to say that my brother is a “crime mapper”. I can put you in touch with him if you have questions. He maps crime in Miami (among other things). He is the one member of my family that the Police department loves.

    Also on the subject of “how to lie with maps”, I also read that book. I never told you that I had originally wanted to use mental maps in my PhD- trying to see how people perceive economic development in different parts of Sudan. I think perceptions are more important than actual statistics when it comes to ideas about marginalization so I was really interested in seeing how people in different parts of the country viewed the overall picture. I was all ready to use plastic overlays and “tokens” to get people to map how they thought economic development looked like and then try to compare it with actual development. I don’t know why I gave it up in the end. The GIS people at my university were not very inspiring and tried to put me off the idea. They told it would be extremely labour intensive and after a few GIS classes, I decided that the technology had nothing to do with mental mapping. My brother also said that GIS was very geared towards equation building and predictable processes. malish.

    Anyhow, I read some amazing books at the time that I think you would enjoy. One is called Mental Maps by Peter Gould. It is very interesting; lots of studies where they get people to draw their own maps. There is a great chapter where he talks about global map drawing; how people in different countries perceive the global map and there is a cool chapter on the neighbourhoods of Los Angeles. It is very old now and I wish there was a new book on the same topic! Then there is Space and Places by Yi-Fu Tuan. A bit conceptual, but I LOVED it. He wrote another book called something like Topophilia. That one is also really interesting. Anyhow, if you haven’t read them, check them out! GIS people should be more creative and imaginative.. humans don’t act like equations so I think conceptual mapping should be taken more seriously! Maybe you will be the first!

    And let me know about my brother. I am sure he would happy to share.

    OK, this comment is far too long. I shall shut up now.


  2. Patrick,

    You allude above to a complementarity between community-oriented policing (COP) and crime mapping. This is a very interesting and important connection. COP is a complex and multi-faceted issue, but the core of it is that police and the residents they are charged with protecting should work together to prevent, not just respond to, criminal behavior. COP is an issue I’ve had some experience with at The Asia Foundation, where we have several projects underway, e.g. in Bangladesh, E. Timor and Indonesia. But to my knowledge we have not looked at integrated our COP projects with any GIS mapping activities. Thank for calling attention to this linkage and for posting sources for further information. I think this has some real potential to inform our programs going forward. Very best,


    • Hi Mike,

      Many thanks for your comment. I’m particularly interested in the link between crime mapping and community security + civilian protection but haven’t looked into community-oriented policing (COP), which sounds extremely interesting. I’d love to learn more, what resources/reports would you recommend I begin with? And I’d be most interested to learn how you integrate your COP projects with mapping activities. Would the participatory mapping literature be of any use?

      Thanks again and all the best,

  3. 1st of all, thanks for following the CrimeReports blog and Twitter feeds. Here at CrimeReports, we’re not only concerned with providing crime mapping to average citizens, but also with being thought leaders in the areas of crime mapping, specifically, the way that we can utilize new technology, social networking, etc., to get citizens involved with their local police departments and work toward more community policing efforts.

    One of our hopes is that more police departments will be able to use tools like to work with community members in their neighborhoods to prevent and reduce crime. Basically, we’re trying to encourage the type of model that Mike, above, is suggesting.

    In that vein, we are working on rolling out a new product that will mashup crime mapping and social networking, that will allow concerned citizens to connect with others in their own neighborhoods to share information with each other and their local police department.

    Let me know if you have any questions. I’ll be happy to talk to you anytime.


  4. Pingback: Does Digital Crime Mapping Work? Insights on Engagement, Empowerment & Transparency | iRevolution

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