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Crime Mapping & Problem Analysis Laboratory

Crime mapping has emerged as one of the most important and popular innovations in American policing. Advancements in computer technology and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) have coincided with theoretical and practical innovations in crime analysis, investigation, and crime prevention. The innovations demanded by community- and problem-oriented policing require that departments incorporate a geographic, spatial, or local focus, and emphasize the importance of integrating crime mapping techniques into departmental management, analysis, and enforcement practices.

Police agencies throughout the country are implementing and utilizing computerized crime mapping systems. Police officials and police scholars are working together to identify ways in which mapping can be used to advance community policing and problem-solving efforts. Recognizing the importance of mapping to policing, the Police Foundation in 1997 established a state-of-the-art Crime Mapping Laboratory with the goals of providing practical assistance and information to police departments, and to develop the physical and theoretical infrastructure necessary for further innovations in police and criminological theory.

The Police Foundation’s Crime Mapping Laboratory was established with the assistance of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) of the US Department of Justice. Through funding provided to law enforcement agencies by COPS MORE grants for technology, COPS encouraged the use of computer crime mapping and took a strong interest in fostering problem solving and more concentrated approaches to the allocation of police resources. In support of this mandate, COPS provided support for the Police Foundation to:

  • Establish and continually maintain contact with COPS grantees
  • Provide technical support in the form of GIS and mapping software training

  • Offer consultation services

  • Develop an information dissemination capability through the ongoing development of an information clearinghouse and periodic newsletter

  • Assist COPS in tracking and developing computer maps illustrating the implementation of COPS programs

Our focus has evolved from the implementation and use of mapping technology in law enforcement agencies to the substantive application of problem analysis, crime analysis, and crime mapping. In 2002, the Police Foundation and COPS hosted a Problem-Analysis Forum to widen the discussion about problem analysis, develop ideas and recommendations for future work, and accelerate the advancement of problem analysis in the police community. We also developed and delivered an extensive problem analysis training program, and in 2003 the foundation and COPS published Problem Analysis in Policing.  To reflect the widening focus of our efforts, the Crime Mapping Laboratory was renamed the Crime Mapping & Problem Analysis Laboratory.

The Crime Mapping & Problem Analysis Laboratory also provides support to our research projects, such as addressing issues of displacement and diffusion, assessing Compstat implementation and organizational change, and mapping hot spots of domestic violence.

For crime mapping related publications published by the Police Foundation, click here.

For a look at document templates from the early days of crime mapping, click here.