Crime Mapping - 05/10/2010

Peter Schmitz

ICA promotes and supports research work across every field of cartography, primarily through the work of its Commissions and Working Groups (listed in the column here left). ICA Commissions are approved and monitored by the General Assembly of member nations, whilst the ICA Executive Committee is empowered to set up shorter-term Working Groups addressing specific issues of cartographic interest not covered by Commissions. In 2009 the EC approved establishment of a Working Group on Crime Mapping, with special consideration for the role of cartography in recording and combating crime, and for forensic purposes to ensure successful prosecution of perpetrators.

High Standard
Crime mapping is a form of geospatial analysis and modelling, and a prime example of visual analytics. Visualisation is used to assist in decision making with regard to crime prevention activities, and also for forensic evidence in court cases. Map production is crucial in crime mapping, since maps are displayed on internet sites and in general reports as well for court evidence; they should be of a standard sufficient to ensure they are easily understood by persons in court without a background in geography. For mapping of crime patterns spatial data mining is required, along with spatial analysis such as pattern, surface and network processing. Spatiotemporal modelling of criminal activity can be carried out to assess the effectiveness of policing or to predict possible crime incidents to assist in apprehending the criminal.

Forensic Rigour
As well, therefore, as being a cross-cutting discipline, crime mapping is used practically worldwide by law enforcement agencies. It is the variable use of such mapping which provides focus for the new Working Group; one of its primary aims is thus to establish a set of guidelines to ensure forensic rigour of maps used in court cases. Other aims are incorporated in the Terms of Reference of the Group, which further includes recognition of the need to sketch out a broad research agenda for all aspects of crime mapping. Further objectives involve collaboration with other ICA Commissions and Working Groups, joint meetings with other organisations active in crime-mapping research, the holding of Working Group meetings in conjunction with the timetable of ICA conferences, and co-ordination of international activity in the field among ICA member nations. The Group also intends to widely publish research findings.

Vice-chair Peter Schmitz, of CSIR Built Environment, South Africa, would be pleased to hear from anyone interested in any aspect of crime mapping and map design for specific legal purposes.

Last updated: 07/09/2020