1 Introduction

1.1 The geography of crime

1.2 A brief history of GIS and crime mapping

1.3 Using GIS in policing and to prevent crime

1.4 The audience for this book

1.5 The content and structure of the book

1.6 Putting it all in perspective

2 Mapping and the Criminal Justice Environment

Learning Objectives

2.1 Introduction

2.2 The terminology of services in the criminal justice environment

2.3 The spatial hierarchy of the criminal justice system and crime reduction services

2.4 The geographical jurisdiction of law enforcement and crime reduction services

2.5 The use of crime mapping in law enforcement and crime reduction

2.6 Summary

3 The Basics of Crime Mapping

Learning Objectives

3.1 What is a GIS?

3.2 How does a GIS work?

3.3 GIS files

3.4 Coordinate systems and projections

3.5 Getting crime data into a GIS

3.6 Geocoding in the real world

3.7 Address data cleaning

3.8 Address reference files

3.9 Geocoding functions

3.10 Geocoding and fitness for purpose

3.11 Measuring geocoding accuracy

3.12 Mapping and unreported crime data

3.13 Editing data in a GIS

3.14 Performing queries on data in a GIS

3.15 Performing spatial functions and integrating data in a GIS

3.16 Asking spatial questions before mapping or analysing data

3.17 Summary

4 Spatial Theories of Crime

Learning Objectives

4.1 Introduction

4.2 Early environmental criminology

4.3 The space and time of offences

4.4 Offender–offence interaction

4.5 Spatial crime theory in practice

4.6 Summary

5 Spatial Statistics for Crime Analysis

Learning Objectives

5.1 Introduction

5.2 Spatial processes

5.3 Centrographic statistics

5.4 Estimates of spatial dependence

5.5 Spatial regression models

5.6 Summary

6 Identifying Crime Hotspots

Learning Objectives

6.1 Introduction

6.2 When is a hotspot ‘hot’?

6.3 Point maps

6.4 Geographic boundary thematic mapping

6.5 Grid thematic mapping

6.6 Continuous surface smoothing methods

6.7 Local Indicators of Spatial Association (LISA) statistics

6.8 Considering the underlying population

6.9 Predictive crime mapping

6.10 Summary

7 Mapping Crime with Local Community Data

Learning Objectives

7.1 Introduction

7.2 What are crime reduction partnerships?

7.3 Mapping and the benefits of partnership working

7.4 Partnership data

7.5 Information sharing

7.6 Combining data from different geographic units

7.7 Summary

8 Mapping and Analysing Change Over Time

Learning Objectives

8.1 Introduction

8.2 The timeline

8.3 Temporal resolution and querying a temporal database

8.4 Comparing two distributions

8.5 Mapping temporal change with graphs

8.6 Using animation

8.7 Quantifying change over time

8.8 Aoristic analysis

8.9 Summary

9 Mapping for Operational Police Activities

Learning Objectives

9.1 Introduction

9.2 CompStat

9.3 Intelligence products in the UK

9.4 Repeat victimisation

9.5 The hotspot matrix

9.6 Summary

10 Tactical and Investigative Crime Mapping Applications

Learning Objectives

10.1 Introduction

10.2 Understanding offenders

10.3 The journey to crime

10.4 Geographic profiling

10.5 Using maps as evidence

10.6 Detecting offenders through their self-selection

10.7 Summary

11 Policing the Causes of Crime

Learning Objectives

11.1 Introduction – the level of strategic crime control

11.2 Policing for crime reduction

11.3 Analysing the underlying drivers of crime

11.4 The geography of neighbourhood studies

11.5 Summary

12 Crime Map Cartography

Learning Objectives

12.1 Introduction – the purpose of the map

12.2 Design considerations

12.3 Visual variables and colour

12.4 Thematic maps of areal data

12.5 Thematic maps of point data

12.6 Getting away from paper: The digital age

12.7 Summary

13 The Management and Organisation of Crime Mapping Services

Learning Objectives

13.1 Introduction

13.2 Implementing crime mapping

13.3 Understanding the role of crime analysis

13.4 Organising the production of crime mapping products

13.5 Summary



Mastering GIS: Technology, Applications and Management series

Location-based Services and Geomatic Engineering, Allan Brimicombe and Chao Li (forthcoming)

Geodemographics, GIS and Neighbourhood Targeting, Richard Harris, Peter Sleight and Richard Webber

Landscape Visualisation: GIS Techniques for Planning and Environmental Management, Andrew Lovett, Katy Appleton and Simon Jude (forthcoming)

Integration of GIS and Remote Sensing, Victor Mesev (forthcoming)

GIS for Public Sector Spatial Planning, Scott Orford, Andrea Frank and Sean White (forthcoming)

GIS Techniques for Habitat Management, Nigel Waters and Shelley Alexander (forthcoming)

Spencer Chainey: To Victoria and Oscar Jerry Ratcliffe: To Philippa


We would like to thank the following who have provided case study material, comment on the book’s content and supported us in its production: George Rengert, Philippa Ratcliffe, Ron Wilson, Rachel Weeden, Suzanne Siegel, Patricia Giorgio-Fox, Charles Brennan, Tom Casady, Ned Levine, Michael McCullagh, Brian Flood, Ralph Taylor, Jim LeBeau, Stewart Fotheringham, Gloria Laycock, Kate Bowers, Shane Johnson, Kim Rossmo, Mark Partick, Lee Kilroy, Stuart Arnott, Tim Hemsley, Phil Davies, Sylvia Chenery, Andy Brumwell, Steve Rose, Nancy LaVigne, Julie Wartell, Bryan Hill and Dave Flitcroft.



1.1 The geography of crime

Crime has an inherent geographical quality. When a crime occurs, it happens at a place with a geographical location. For someone to have committed a crime they must have also come from a place (such as their home, work or school). This place could be the same location where the crime was committed or is often close to where the crime was perpetrated (Frisbie et al., 1977; Brantingham and Brantingham, 1981; Rossmo, 2000; Wiles and Costello, 2000). ‘Place’ therefore plays a vital role in understanding crime and how crime can be tackled.

The study of crime has traditionally been the preserve of other disciplines such as sociology and psychology (Georges, 1978) and it was not until the late 1970s that the ‘place’ and the spatial dimension to crime began to be more fully explored. The police have long recognised the inherent geographical component of crime by sticking pins into maps displayed on walls, where each pin represented a crime event, but it was studies such as those from the ‘Chicago School’ of the 1930s (Shaw and McKay, 1931) that first demonstrated the importance of geography in understanding crime.

What has taken time, and only seriously surfaced in the 1970s, was the realisation that crime could be explained and understood in more depth by exploring its geographical components. New techniques emerged – techniques that included identifying patterns and concentrations of crime; the exploration of the relationships between crime and environmental or socio-economic characteristics; and techniques to assess the effectiveness of policing and crime reduction programmes that are targeted to geographical areas. What has materialised from this emergence of academic and practitioner activity is the field of crime mapping – a progressive blend of practical criminal justice issues with the research field of Geographical Information Systems (GIS).

1.2 A brief history of GIS and crime mapping

Since the 1960s GIS has emerged as a discipline in its own right. From its origins in land use applications in Canada to an all-pervasive technology used today in applications as diverse as in-car navigation, retail store site location, customer targeting, risk management, construction, weather forecasting, utilities management and military planning, GIS has become ubiquitous in modern life.

The infancy of GIS grew through applications such as planning for the US Census of Population in 1970 (and other national censuses in many other countries since) and from the national mapping agencies that began using this technology to help automate their cartographic draughting. Imagery of the earth from satellites has also played a significant role in the development of GIS, particularly through the military where GIS was the platform into which imagery could be displayed and analysed for the purpose of intelligence gathering. Indeed it was the military that were responsible for the first uniform system of measuring location, driven by the need for accurately targeting missiles. The military were also initially responsible for the development of the Global Positioning System (GPS). However, it was not until the 1980s that reductions in the price of computer technology created a conducive environment for the development of the GIS software industry and the subsequent growth in cost-effective GIS applications (Longley et al., 2001).

These reductions in the cost of computer hardware were complemented by improved operating systems, electronic storage media and developments in computer software, and have had a wide and significant impact in introducing GIS technologies to new areas, such as policing and crime reduction. The computerisation of police records has come with a realisation that this material can be used for crime and intelligence analysis (Ratcliffe, 2004), and in turn used to better recognise patterns of crime that can be targeted for action, patterns that evidence suggests police officers are not necessarily aware of (Ratcliffe and McCullagh, 2001).

The early use of GIS for mapping crime was often held back by organisational and management problems (Openshaw et al., 1990), issues with sharing information (Chainey, 2001), technical problems (Hirschfield et al., 1995) and geocoding problems (Craglia et al., 2000). These problems were shared with many of the other industries and disciplines trying to implement GIS, and it took several innovators to resolve these issues and show how they could be overcome. In reality many of these problems have not simply gone away, and several new ones have emerged, so in this book we try to help the reader by pointing to ways in which many of these technical and organisational issues can be overcome.

Much of the innovation in crime mapping was driven in the United States by the National Institute of Justice’s Crime Mapping Research Center (CMRC). Renamed in 2002 as the Mapping and Analysis for Public Safety (MAPS) programme, the impact of this US government initiative was not isolated to the USA, but has also been the foundation for the development of crime mapping in many other countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa and across South America. The MAPS programme has raised awareness of crime mapping through arranging seminars, conferences and producing publications, and by developing crime mapping software tools and funding new fields of crime mapping research. The MAPS programme, joined now by many other institutions and organisations, continues to be an active player in supporting the development of crime mapping with the result that crime mapping is now more widely recognised by government and law enforcement services as a tool to aid policing and crime reduction.

Many argue that the ‘systems’ development of GIS has in recent years been overtaken by the ‘scientific’ development of the discipline (Goodchild, 1992, 1997; Longley et al., 2001). This geographical information science has seen the development of analytical methodologies, techniques and processes for the advancement of spatial understanding, and as a result has contributed to many disciplines where understanding space and place is important, such as with crime (Ratcliffe, 2004). The geographical analysis of crime has also shown strong parallels with the field of spatial epidemiology and continues today to learn from this related field, using many of the analysis techniques that were originally designed for the study of disease patterns. We cover a number of these techniques in this book.

1.3 Using GIS in policing and to prevent crime

Crime mapping can play an important role in the policing and crime reduction process, from the first stage of data collection through to the monitoring and evaluation of any targeted response. It can also act as an important mechanism in a more pivotal preliminary stage, that of preventing crime by helping in the design of initiatives that are successful in tackling a crime problem. In subsequent sections of this book we present and discuss a wide range of applications for crime mapping, but as a resume to demonstrate how it can support many central processes to policing and crime reduction we include the following application areas:

Crime mapping is becoming central to policing and crime reduction in the 21st century, and this book aims to make a contribution to its continued growth. As Clarke (2004, p. 60) notes, ‘Quite soon, crime mapping will become as much an essential tool of criminological research as statistical analysis is at present.’

1.4 The audience for this book

This book has been written to appeal to a wide range of professionals, academics and students interested in crime mapping. The book’s style and content is one that should interest analysts working in policing and law enforcement, and analysts working in other services that support crime reduction, such as those who work in a crime reduction partnership, or those that are involved in analysing or researching crime problems within national or regional government bodies. The book should also appeal to academics and lecturers in GIS, crime science, crime prevention, criminal justice, law enforcement, policing, community safety or criminology, and to researchers and students studying in these disciplines. The book also aims to be of international appeal by focusing on generic themes in GIS and crime mapping, and by drawing from worldwide experiences and developments in the active areas of crime mapping.

1.5 The content and structure of the book

This book has been written to support readers with the essential theory, scientific methodologies, analysis techniques and design processes that they require for applying crime mapping as a tool to help understand crime. The book’s content is also illustrated with examples and case studies designed to bring depth to the explanation of certain principles and to demonstrate crime mapping at work. The book can also be used as a reference text which can be dipped into on relevant occasions, and to complement existing texts on the subject.

The book is divided into four main parts: Part One covers the basics required for mapping crime; Part Two covers crime mapping and GIS techniques; Part Three presents and discusses a comprehensive range of methodologies and applications of crime mapping; and Part Four aims to bring together much of what has been described and discussed by explaining how to make maps work to their best effect, and the organisational and management arrangements that can help to ensure that these outputs are used.

‘The basics’ included in Part One begins in the next chapter which describes the different professional areas where crime mapping is being applied, clarifies the definitions of terms and professions and explains the geographic jurisdictional and hierarchical boundaries of policing and crime reduction services. Chapter 3 further explores the basics of crime mapping by describing the starting point for converting raw crime data into a computer map. This chapter also explains some of the key concepts of GIS and geographic data, and in particular the chapter discusses and addresses the issues with geocoding crime data. Chapter 4 covers the essential theoretical concepts for interpreting and understanding the geographical aspects of crime. It includes an explanation of how thinking about crime and space has developed into the field of environmental criminology and demonstrates many of the key theoretical concepts in a practical sense. This chapter provides the essential backcloth to why there is value in crime mapping.

Part Two emphasises geographic information techniques and processes that can be applied to crime mapping. This part begins by providing a grounding in spatial statistics, from descriptive spatial statistics through to more advanced techniques such as spatial autocorrelation and spatial regression. The theme of spatial statistics continues in Chapter 6 where a range of different methods are discussed for identifying crime hotspots. The concept of using crime data with non-police data is then explored in Chapter 7, which discusses the use of non-crime data sources to complement the picture of criminal behaviour and the possible causes that account for that behaviour. The chapter also explores the data that these other sources may have available to share, and reviews the information-sharing challenges and the technical processes for combining geographic information. The analytical techniques for understanding crime patterns in space are complemented in Chapter 8 where we explore ways to visualise the temporal and spatio-temporal patterns of crime. This includes helping the reader to recognise the value that the temporal dimension contributes to understanding crime as well as equipping the reader with a range of tools that can be used to identify and interpret temporal and spatio-temporal patterns.

Part Three focuses on crime mapping applications and approaches in its use, grouping these applications into three separate chapters. Chapter 9 describes the ways in which maps are incorporated into the operational thinking of police organisations, and are used to inform police officers wishing to reduce crime. This is illustrated with examples that describe the principles and functions of the CompStat process; describe the intelligence products of Britain’s National Intelligence Model; discuss the importance of repeat victimisation identification in crime prevention research and outline the components of the ‘Hotspot Matrix’ as a way to understand and establish suitable responses to crime problems based on their spatial and temporal characteristics. Chapter 10 describes how crime mapping can support the tactical and investigative requirements of law enforcement and crime reduction, particularly in terms of catching offenders or gathering facts that can be useful in targeting diversion schemes, focusing the control of behaviour and directing crime prevention strategies. The chapter includes analytical methods for understanding offenders; discusses the importance of understanding the journey to crime; presents the main concepts of geographic profiling and how this important tool has been used to help serial crime investigations; describes the key requirements to consider when producing maps for prosecution evidence and explains the concept of offender self-selection. Part Three’s final chapter begins by re-examining the main spatial crime theoretical structures to examine the different types of geographical scale and strategies that provide the link between theoretical understanding of crime and its spatial extent. This chapter includes an overview of the current paradigms in policing and crime reduction and whether these can be effectively employed in a spatial sense to prevent crime. These discussions then extend to the analysis of neighbourhoods and understanding the underlying drivers of crime.

Part Four focuses on pulling together the outputs of crime mapping into a form that makes them work, be effective and reach the right audience. Chapter 12 examines the end of the crime mapping process – getting the message across to the audience. The main focus of this chapter is gearing the output to the needs of the client or audience, and in this chapter we offer the reader tips, techniques and theories to ensure that their effort is not wasted. More specifically, the chapter looks at key principles of cartographic design, the effective use of colour and the incorporation of maps into presentations. The book’s final chapter helps to identify the ways in which crime mapping can be managed and organised in policing and crime reduction services. It discusses the GIS and crime mapping implementing process, the role of crime mapping (and analysis) and its effective use and the integration of crime mapping products into information-driven processes.

1.6 Putting it all in perspective

To put this book into a functional perspective, the following case study illustrates the developmental process of getting a crime mapping system up and running. It also shows the myriad of ways in which mapping technology can aid the policing and crime reduction effort. Chief Casady’s experiences are probably similar to that of many innovative police departments and show how effective use of mapping does not instantly occur, but rather happens as a result of a combination of technological advancement and organisational change, both of which have been achieved through Chief Casady’s leadership.

Case study: Crime mapping in Lincoln, Nebraska

Material supplied by Tom Casady – Chief of Police, Lincoln Police Department

Geography is basic to policing, and all good police officers are intimately familiar with the lay of the land in their area. They know their beat like the back of their hand. Perhaps because ‘place’ is such an important component of policing, maps are a common tool. Police officers cut them into manageable pieces, they punch them for a ring binder, they clip them out of phone books, they laminate them, and they fold them into their pockets.

Back at police headquarters in Lincoln, someone was sticking coloured pins in a map on the wall when Teddy Roosevelt was President. In those days the pins represented saloons, or horse thefts, stick-ups or burglaries, maybe accidents, houses of ill repute, homes of officers, or any of hundreds of other events, facts or people. The map was a picture in time of a phenomenon, and told its story with a glance.

Today, the pin map has often been replaced by a much more powerful analytical tool – a GIS. Almost all printed maps are produced by high tech computer software today, but the real power of a GIS lies not in the printed output, but in the ability to interact with the data. Law enforcement is a relative latecomer to the use of GIS, but the use of GIS in policing has grown dramatically in the past several years. As this field grows, more and more police departments are discovering GIS as an incredibly valuable resource that in many cases is already at their disposal in their own community (if not hidden elsewhere in their own police department, it can often be found in the city hall or county government office).

This is exactly what happened to the Lincoln Police Department in the 1990s. Well before we began our crime mapping and analysis programmes, the Lancaster County Engineer and the Lincoln Public Works and Planning Departments had developed an extensive GIS, and were anxious to share their mapped data with other government agencies. In 1997 we began our first GIS applications in policing, making extensive use of the accurate basemap components, such as streets, land parcels, aerial photographs, and many other layers of geographic information that had already been developed and were being maintained by several city and county agencies. What we added to this cartographic mix was our police data about places.

Virtually everything we do as a police department revolves around an address or location. All of our dispatch records, incident reports, citations, intelligence reports have a place, and all of these are records collected in the ordinary course of business. GIS software allows mappers to use these computerised records of such things as crimes, by automatically placing the ‘pins’ on the map.

Each day, the preceding 24 hours of dispatch records, incident reports and field interviews are electronically mapped, as well as the addresses of gang members, registered sex offenders and parolees. The power of the GIS software allows our analysts to query this data rapidly to illuminate trends and patterns that would be lost in the sheer volume of events. With 400 dispatches on a typical day, no one has the full picture of everything that has occurred. Even in a much smaller agency, the differences in shifts and days off make it quite possible that two officers investigating similar thefts from the laundry rooms of two side-by-side apartment buildings are each unaware of the other’s case. A GIS pulls these connections together out of stacks of reports by enlisting the power of the computer to extract data through time, date, modus operandi, crime type queries and queries that are geographically based.

We primarily use our GIS for operational and tactical purposes: locating crime series and intervening in these quickly. But we also use these data in many other ways. We often print large maps of crime scenes and the surrounding area as a visual aid in major crime investigations. GIS also helps identify other crimes that may be the work of the same suspect. Adding geography to the modus operandi can reveal information about the offender’s target selection. Following an arrest, GIS analysis can help identify other cases that are prospects for a multiple clearance.

GIS also supports strategic decision-making. The power of GIS, for example, dramatically simplifies the time-consuming task of redistricting or adjusting boundaries in patrol areas. In 1998 we were studying the need to add a fifth patrol team area, and considering the need to move one of our major patrol boundaries. Working on one single scenario, our planners spent a full week examining the workload implications of redrawing one boundary between the Center and Northeast Team Areas. When we applied GIS to this analysis, we were able to examine dozens of alternatives and their impacts during a 4-hour management staff meeting. We have used GIS analysis to support decisions on locating substations, targeting crime in fragile neighborhoods, and developing problem-oriented policing projects.

Crime mapping has changed dramatically during the years since we produced our first GIS crime map in December, 1997. Among the major developments for us have been automating our geocoding process, simplifying our interface, and deploying our mapping applications to a much wider range of personnel. With our new applications, anyone in the department who knows how to book their airline tickets online is perfectly capable of doing their own geographic analysis. Officers and employees with basic Internet skills can produce high-level GIS analysis with nothing more than an Internet connection and a browser. Our easy-to-use Intranet-based mapping application is available to everyone on the department at anytime of the day or night. Officers can query crime type, date range, certain MO patterns, and proximity to addresses or landmarks and quickly obtain both maps and tables of matching incidents. In a matter of moments, our employees can produce analysis and maps that a few years ago would have required expensive software, high-powered computers, and extensive GIS expertise.

We also make mapping available to the general public through the Internet. Our public mapping application allows citizens to select crime types and date ranges, and to produce both tables and maps of incidents near a specific address, a landmark such as a school, or within the boundaries of a specific neighborhood association. Although the query functions of this public Internet application are intentionally throttled back and the data reduced considerably to protect the confidentiality of crime victims, it remains a valuable asset to landlords, neighborhood associations, and other interested members of the public. At a recent meeting of the Lincoln City Council, a neighborhood association was testifying during a public hearing on a zoning issue. Their representative was using data and maps about crimes to bolster the association’s case.

I recognized the layouts and the data as being from our public web mapping application.

Further reading

LaVigne, N.G. and Groff, E.R. (2001). The evolution of crime mapping in the United States. In A. Hirschfield and K. Bowers (eds) Mapping and Analysing Crime Data, pp. 203–221. London: Taylor & Francis.

Weisburd, D. and McEwen, T. (eds) (1997). Introduction: Crime mapping and crime prevention. In Crime Mapping and Crime Prevention, pp. 8, 1–23. New York: Criminal Justice Press.

These two references offer a comprehensive history of how crime mapping has developed from its infancy to its use in modern policing and crime reduction.

The United States National Institute of Justice’s Mapping and Analysis for Public Safety programme

The National Institute of Justice’s Mapping and Analysis for Public Safety (MAPS) programme’s website offers a ‘briefing book’ that outlines many of the key ways in which crime mapping is used. The MAPS website also offers a number of other resources on crime mapping including links to software, online publications and details of crime mapping conferences.

Leipnik, M.R. and Albert, D.P. (2003) GIS in Law Enforcement: Implementation Issues and Case Studies. London: Taylor & Francis.

Leipnik and Albert offer a useful crime mapping resource list of internet sites, key publications and agencies that support crime mapping.


Brantingham, P.J. and Brantingham, P.L. (eds) (1981). Environmental Criminology. London: Sage.

Chainey, S.P. (2001). Combating crime through partnership: Examples of crime and disorder mapping solutions in London, UK. In A. Hirschfield and K. Bowers (eds) Mapping and Analysing Crime Data. London: Taylor & Francis.

Clarke, R.V. (2004). Technology, criminology and crime science. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research, 10(1), 55–63.

Craglia, M., Haining, R. and Wiles, P. (2000). A comparative evaluation of approaches to urban crime pattern analysis. Urban Studies, 37(4), 711–729.

Frisbie, D.W., Fishbine, G., Hintz, R., Joelson, M. and Nutter, J.B. (1977). Crime in Minneapolis: Proposals for prevention. St Paul, MN: Community Crime Prevention Project, Governor’s Commission on Crime Prevention and Control.

Georges, D.E. (1978). The geography of crime and violence: A spatial and ecological perspective. Association of American Geographers: Resource papers for college geography, 78(1).

Goodchild, M.F. (1992). Geographical information science. International Journal of Geographical Information Systems, 6(1), 31–45.

Goodchild, M.F. (1997). What is Geographic Information Science?, NCGIA Core Curriculum in GIScience., posted 7 October 1997.

Hirschfield, A., Brown, P. and Todd, P. (1995). GIS and the analysis of spatially-referenced crime data: Experiences in Merseyside, UK. International Journal of Geographical Information Systems, 9(2), 191–210.

Longley, P., Goodchild, M., Maguire, D. and Rhind, D. (2001). Geographic Information Systems and Science. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

Openshaw, S., Cross, A., Charlton, M. and Brunsdon, C. (1990). Lessons learnt from a post mortem of a failed GIS. The 2nd National Conference and Exhibition of the Association for Geographic Information, Brighton.

Ratcliffe, J.H. (2004). Crime mapping and the training needs of law enforcement. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research, 10(1), 65–83.

Ratcliffe, J.H. and McCullagh, M.J. (2001). Chasing ghosts? Police perception of high crime areas. British Journal of Criminology, 41(2), 330–341.

Rossmo, K. (2000). Geographic Profiling. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press.

Shaw, C.R. and McKay, H.D. (1931). Social Factors in Juvenile Delinquency. Washington: US Government Printing Office.

Wiles, P. and Costello, A. (2000). The road to nowhere: The evidence for traveling criminals. Home Office Research Study 207, Research, Development and Statistics Directorate, Home Office.


Mapping and the Criminal Justice Environment

Learning Objectives

In this chapter we identify how crime mapping fits into the professions and organisation levels of the criminal justice environment. We begin by removing some of the ambiguity regarding the definitions of certain terms, so that the reader has a clearer sense of the terminology used in criminal justice. This includes defining crime prevention, community safety, law enforcement, crime control and crime reduction. We also examine the structuring of criminal justice in terms of its geographic jurisdictional domains and hierarchical boundaries of policing and crime reduction services. The chapter offers a foundation that helps the crime mapper locate how their work can be applied and the contributions that they can offer. We conclude by introducing several situations in which crime mapping is applicable.

2.1 Introduction

The criminal justice environment uses a wide-ranging set of terminology and is structured across many organisations and agencies that act across various levels of hierarchy. To the reader who is new to crime mapping it is useful to begin by reviewing how the application of mapping crime can be applied in different professions and at the various hierarchical and organisational levels in policing and government. For the experienced crime mapper, a review of this type may also help them orientate their skills more effectively into this working environment and identify others whose skills they can complement.

The broad arena of criminal justice runs the gamut of services from early intervention activity to the work of the courts, prison and probation. While we recognise that mapping applications have been applied in other areas, this book concerns itself with crime mapping, and so in the following discussion we will limit the focus to those areas of the criminal justice system that are concerned with the mapping of crime for crime prevention, reduction and detection.

The criminal justice, policing and crime reduction services environment is awash with a range of terms that are used and interchanged so liberally that it can often leave the crime mapper confused as to what it is they actually do and how their craft can be applied in an appropriate context. The terms ‘law enforcement’, ‘crime prevention’, ‘community safety’, ‘crime control’ and ‘crime reduction’ often suffer from definitional ambiguity, are commonly misused and misunderstood by those working in or supporting these professions, can suffer from weak distinction, are frequently interchanged without reason and are even used to compete against each other – leaving an environment of clouded contradiction (Brantingham and Faust, 1976). Indeed Wiles and Pease (2000) refer to crime prevention and community safety anecdotally as ‘Tweedledum and Tweedledee’, referring to the identity crisis between the two terms, which are viewed by some as identical, and by others as two individual positions. These definitional ambiguities can easily lead to a situation where the professional who simply wants to apply their trade can easily become a victim, confused over how their skills can be applied and the context in which they should be working. Here we seek to provide some clarity and explain these terms in a manner that is explanatorily concise and clear in meaning. These definitions can also provide useful food for thought that help point the crime mapper in the direction in which they can apply their mapping skills. In this chapter we start by defining the differences between crime prevention and community safety, and other closely related terms that are used in criminal justice.

2.2 The terminology of services in the criminal justice environment

The criminal justice, policing and crime reduction environments use a number of terms that describe the services they provide or what they aspire to achieve. These include:

2.2.1 Crime prevention

Crime prevention involves any activity by an individual or group, public or private, which attempts to either eliminate crime prior to it occurring or before any additional activity results (Brantingham and Faust, 1976; Lab, 1988). Lab goes on to include fear of crime in his definition: ‘Crime prevention entails any action designed to reduce the actual level of crime and/or perceived fear of crime’ (Lab, 1988, p. 9). These definitions can be expanded by considering crime prevention between the levels or stages in criminal behaviour at which intervening activity can be implemented, and considering the different types of intervention. Lab (1997) identified five approaches to modern crime prevention:

1. Saving the less fortunate – separating those that are at risk and intervening before further activity results.
2. Altering the social fabric – building thriving communities that are cohesive and that could control the behaviour of people in the neighbourhood (Shaw and McKay, 1931, 1942; Schlossman and Sedlak, 1983).
3. Changing the physical environment – removal of those physical features that are conducive to crime (through physical design) to show that the area is well cared for and protected, and the removal of any signs of incivility (‘broken windows’) to make the area less promising as a site for crime (Jacobs, 1961; Newman, 1972; Wilson and Kelling, 1982; Lewis and Salem, 1986; Taylor and Gottfredson, 1986).
4. Organising the community – using citizen surveillance and action as a means to protect the neighbourhood, including interaction and engagement between the police and active local residents (Palumbo et al., 1997).
5. Situational crime prevention – focusing on the settings for crime, rather than upon those committing criminal acts. By directing measures at specific forms of crime that involve making or managing environmental changes for crime to be more difficult and risky, or less rewarding and excusable (Clarke, 1992).

Interpreting the definition of crime prevention by considering these approaches is useful, but Brantingham and Faust’s (1976) analogy with public health (as explained below) offers a means of considering crime prevention between the levels or stages in criminal behaviour – defined through the Crime Prevention Model. The Crime Prevention Model describes three levels of activity:

1. Primary prevention
2. Secondary prevention
3. Tertiary prevention. Primary prevention

Primary prevention identifies conditions of the physical and social environment that provide opportunities for, or precipitate, criminal behaviour. This is analogous to a public health intervention that provides community-wide health advice and is not targeted to an individual. The objective of crime prevention interventions in this case is to alter those conditions so that crimes cannot occur. This can be through consideration of the design or modification of the physical environment, modification of the social environment to reduce temptations or impulsions towards criminal behaviour, providing security provisions, social and physical well-being programmes and crime prevention education. Primary prevention is very much about preventing the criminal behaviour at the point of criminal opportunity (Brantingham and Faust, 1976). Secondary prevention

Secondary prevention engages in the early identification of potential offenders, be they groups or individuals. Analogous to public health, this involves identifying those who have a high risk of developing a disease or those that show the early signs of having a disease. Intervention is then through specialist treatment that is designed to reduce the risk, prevent it from developing or prevent it from further developing. In crime prevention terms the intervention seeks to ensure that identified high-risk offenders never commit a crime or to reduce the risk of their future involvement in more serious criminal activity. These interventions could include police intelligence operations, stop-and-search tactics, diversion programmes, mentoring and supervision programmes, screening of individuals, neighbourhood education programmes in high-risk areas or crisis intervention through welfare programmes. Secondary prevention is about preventing crime by reducing the risks of those vulnerable to involvement in crime, or preventing additional criminal behaviour from occurring or graduating to activity that is more serious (Brantingham and Faust, 1976). Tertiary prevention

Tertiary prevention focuses on dealing with actual offenders. It is analogous to identifying individuals with advanced cases of disease where intervention aims to prevent death or permanent disability. Tertiary crime prevention involves intervening with the lives of these offenders in a manner that prevents them from committing other crimes and includes arrest and prosecution, reform and rehabilitation and institutional education programmes. In essence, tertiary crime prevention is the primary goal of the correctional system (Brantingham and Faust, 1976).

These definitions of crime prevention demonstrate that dealing with criminal behaviour is not something that the police can do on their own. It points to the need for crime prevention activity that is delivered in partnership between police and many other public bodies. We take forward these concepts of partnerships in Chapters 7 and 11.

2.2.2 Community safety

If ‘safety refers to the absence, or the sensed absence, of likely or serious harms [… whether caused by a person or otherwise …] the practice of community safety involves the management of risk so as to maximise public safety’ (Wiles and Pease, 2000, pp. 22–23). Community safety is not just about managing the risks of crime, but is a term that is broader and refers to all actions that could cause a community some harm, and the consequences that could result from these harms (Ekblom, 2000). Thus community safety also includes transport accidents and other related activities that impact on the well-being of the public, and the requirement for strategies that remove harms and deal with consequences. There is often confusion between community safety and crime prevention, particularly in the UK where the terms have in recent years been regularly substituted. Naturally, crime issues should be considered as a component of community safety, but confusion is promoted in the UK when community safety is presented in government legislation on crime and disorder, such as the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. Indeed, Wiles and Pease (2000, p. 25) note, ‘community safety, as legislated, is simply presented as re-badged crime prevention, not as a broader way of ranking and dealing with the dangers facing people’ and that ‘community safety is now employed as a synonym of crime prevention, with fluffy overtones added’. However, in its broader and more accurate sense, community safety is realised through an integrated consideration of diverse harms to the public, and ‘refers to the likely absence of harms from all sources, not just from human acts classifiable as crimes’ (Wiles and Pease, 2000, p. 21). Community safety also provides a strategic viewpoint on community harms by focusing attention towards the development of programmes that set targets to manage risks and aims to maximise public safety.

2.2.3 Law enforcement and policing

Law enforcement is the act of ensuring that laws and regulations are followed. In a policing context its aims are to prevent, investigate and solve crimes while protecting public citizens. When a law or regulation becomes broken it involves the use of a police (or other enforcement activity such as security or administrative) investigation that leads or could lead to a penalty or sanction being imposed. The role of policing usually extends further than simply law enforcement. Bittner (1980) identified three primary domains of policing: law enforcement, regulatory control (e.g. traffic management and control of specific licencing activities such as permits for firearms and taxi licences) and peacekeeping (e.g. crowd control, control of civil disorders and noise complaints). In the UK the police domain of law enforcement is relatively clear and transparent. The 43 police services of England and Wales, the eight police services in Scotland and the Police Service of Northern Ireland are supplemented by national bodies such as the British Transport Police and the National Criminal Intelligence Service. The picture is more complicated in America, where there is no agreed number of police services. Estimates range somewhere from 18000 to just over 21000 (Maguire et al., 1998) across three general tiers: local police, state police and federal police. It is estimated that about half of all local municipal police services in the US have 10 sworn officers or less (Walker and Katz, 2001).

There is a distinction between police and policing. Policing is an activity that the police conduct, but it can also be conducted by people and agencies that are not sworn officers of the law. Considerable crime prevention of private property is now conducted by private security and non-police agencies, and financial agencies such as major banks and insurance companies are developing their investigative departments. These agencies conduct policing, but are not the police.

2.2.4 Crime control