Columbia, South Carolina, Police Department Deploys GIS for Advanced Crime Analysis (ESRI)

Spatial Analysis, Data Integration, and Visualization Provide New Level of Community Service and Crime Prevention

August 07, 2006 -- Redlands, California—The Columbia, South Carolina, Police Department (PD) is using ArcGIS software for advanced crime analysis that is enabling the agency to better serve its community and fight crime. The agency implemented ESRI-based Crime Analysis Tools (CAT) from Bradshaw Consulting Services, Inc. (BCS), an ESRI business partner.

Columbia PD’s decision to implement an advanced GIS-based solution came in recognition of the technology’s ability to integrate disparate, complex datasets and create highly accurate, information-rich crime maps that support all aspects of law enforcement and community policing. In addition, Columbia PD can leverage the City’s GIS Department resources, which also utilize ESRI technology. The City’s basemap data, aerial photography, and other datasets are integrated within the Crime Analysis Unit’s GIS solution.

"The decision was already made by the City of Columbia, South Carolina, GIS Department to utilize the ArcGIS Desktop suite of mapping tools and functions," says Rick J. Hines, police captain, Columbia PD. "CAT enables the user to quickly analyze different datasets visually from various perspectives based on basemap layers that are accessible through the City’s GIS database. It’s a powerful yet easy method for performing what if scenarios or viewing what is happening in our community at any given time."

Geographic information system (GIS) technology allows crime analysts to perform a wide variety of spatial analysis, data integration, and visualization functions. It provides an advanced solution to better perform crime assessments, forecast future incidents, allocate resources and personnel, create a common operating picture for incident commanders, and provide decision support throughout an agency.

The CAT tools are used to compile GIS crime analysis maps on a daily basis. The solution integrates data from various Police Department and City sources to determine crime trends and/or patterns. Data for time, location, demographics, economics, traffic flow, and more can be mapped and analyzed to determine where the problems are, how to respond to specific incidents, and how to deter and prevent future crime. In addition, GIS allows distributed data access and analysis for various law enforcement staff. This includes police officers in the field who can have fast access to essential information when it is made available.

The visual representation of crime data also increases the level of communication throughout the agency. Crime analysts are able to produce continuously updated crime maps that are distributed throughout Columbia PD including to law enforcement commanders, investigators, and police officers working on patrol. With just a few mouse clicks and within minutes, crime intelligence sergeants send out suspect information in the form of prepared Be on the Lookout (BOLO) reports, which are crime notifications sent out to police staff after an incident occurs. Previously, this type of action might have taken days for data preparation and dissemination and was a multilayered process that involved gleaning information from data in spreadsheet format. According to the agency, the shift from reactive policing to proactive policing has led to reductions in most types of major crime.

"The Columbia Police Department is an excellent example of how geographic analysis can help commanders and police officers and many others throughout law enforcement get the most out of their databases for better policing," says Lew Nelson, law enforcement industry manager, ESRI. "The visual representation of data in the form of a map and the integration and data access capabilities of GIS all provide powerful automation tools to police agencies involved in intelligence-led policing. The BCS solution gives law enforcement agencies an easy-to-use, functionally rich application tailored to meet the needs of law enforcement."

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