GIS Fights Crime in Chicago

The Chicago Police Department plots a lower-crime future using ESRI's GIS technology.

Download the authoritative guide: Big Data: Mining Data for Revenue

Chicagos homicide rate led the nation last year, so the Chicago Police Department knew it had to find new methods for targeting crime.

In an effort to help prevent murders and aggravated battery with firearms, the CPDs Deployment Operations Center deployed GIS (geographic information system) technologies to present crime information in geographic context. The point of using GIS technologies, which were deployed last June, is to allow officers to make better-informed decisions about which areas of the city need additional police power.

In the second half of last year—the first six months of GIS deployment—the CPD saw an 18 percent drop in murders compared with the same period the year before. So far this year, Chicago has had 23 fewer homicides compared with the same period last year.

"The commander of the Deployment Operations Center saw the importance of having the ability to do some mapping and analysis that would allow them to make key judgments of where they should create police deployment areas," said Joe Kezon, GIS manager for the CPD.

"Our desire is to ensure zero tolerance in crime areas, and the technology enables us to determine where those areas are," Kezon said.

Governments—be they city, county, state or federal—are increasingly turning to GIS to tap large amounts of data that can help agencies function more smoothly. A survey released in December by Public Technology Inc., a nonprofit research group in Washington, found that about 97 percent of local governments serving populations of at least 100,000 are benefiting from the use of GIS applications and mapping technologies.

In addition, Public Technologys survey indicated that 28 percent of local governments with populations of any size use GIS technologies to support crime tracking and investigative activities similar to the CPDs.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read eWEEK Labs special report on GIS technologies.

Before deploying GIS technologies, the CPD used a client/server application developed in-house that enabled police officers to associate crimes with property information. While that application provided officers with information as they investigated crimes, keeping the data up-to-date was tedious because the application had to be loaded onto each computer individually, and new data had to be added every few weeks.

Individual maps were stored locally on roughly 400 PCs. "Any time there was an update to a map layer or a coding change, we had to manually ... update all of those personal computers," Kezon said. "The maintenance of the application was pretty cumbersome."

Next page: A specialized Web site provides maps and data to officers via the CPD intranet.