Is GIS Use in Crime Analysis Effective at Curbing Crime?

Caitlin Dempsey


A new study by researchers at Sam Houston State University found that the use of GIS is widespread in analyzing crime data but that almost no studies have been done to determine if using spatial analysis is an effective tool in reducing crime rates.  “Geographic Information System Effects on Policing Efficacy: An Evaluation of Empirical Assessments was published in the 2014 issue of the International Journal of Applied Geospatial Research.

The researchers examined the use of geospatial technologies in policing and found that GIS is commonly used for mapping crime, identifying crime “hot spots“, assigning officers, and profiling offenders.  Yan Zhang, a SHSU professor and co-author of the research noted that, “Published accounts of applications in policing suggest a significant role in crime analysis and strategic deployment. Nonetheless, there is a total lack of independent evaluation of GIS effect in policing organizations.”

“There is a near total lack of independent evaluations of GIS effects in police organizations,” adds Zhang. “Since GIS represents a significant element of both strategic and tactical decision making for law enforcement agencies, purposeful, focused and relevant evaluations would contribute to maximizing GIS efficacy.”


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Geographic Information System Effects on Policing Efficacy: An Evaluation of Empirical Assessments  – International Journal of Applied Geospatial Research

Sam Houston State study examines use of GIS in policing – Press Release from Sam Houston University

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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.