Mapping Crime Hot Spots

Steve Witham (
Fri, 2 Jan 1998 23:37:58 -0400

Something about technology, the state, and the crime rate in NYC... --Steve

>New York Times Editorial, December 28, 1997
>Mapping Crime Hot Spots
>Making police commanders accountable for crime reduction may seem
>common-sensical, but it is not routine in most police departments around
>the country. The New York Police Department, which now operates under
>this principle, offers proof to other cities that it can be effective.=20
>The strategy relies heavily on the use of computers to pinpoint hot
>spots of crime so that precinct commanders can respond quickly to
>squelch the outbreak. This approach is at least partially responsible
>for the city's dramatic decline in crime rates. Jack Maple, a deputy
>under former Police Commissioner William Bratton, developed the method
>and has spread word of its impact to other urban centers with daunting
>crime problems. In New Orleans and Newark, his tactics are getting
>impressive results, in part because they force officers out onto the
>streets. Birmingham, Ala., is another city looking at this approach.=20
>Easy-to-use computers and inexpensive software make it possible for the
>police to create detailed daily maps showing when and where crime is
>occurring. Precinct commanders and their superiors can then deploy more
>officers to those areas. A rise in crime on a given street, which would
>be hidden under aggregate statistics, is made plainly visible almost
>instantly. This transparency makes it easier to hold commanders
>In New Orleans, Mr. Maple's maps made clear that officers had to be
>stationed at housing projects, where a huge proportion of the city's
>crime was committed. Since making that change, violent crime in New
>Orleans is down 22 percent from last year. Computer mapping is one
>reason Newark, which recently hired Mr. Maple, has reduced its crime
>rate by 13 percent from last year.=20
>Hot-spot mapping is not the sole reason for safer streets in New York.
>Cracking down on low-level offenders, a shift in drug-trafficking
>patterns and stricter sentencing also have helped. Some criminologists
>fear that a high-accountability regime, marked by computer mapping, can
>create pressures that demoralize a police force. Another potential
>problem is that precinct supervisors may be tempted to underreport
>crimes. Those are serious concerns that require strong management.=20
>New York's record suggests that the hot-spot strategy can increase
>police accountability for positive results. Experience elsewhere appears
>to show that this approach can be successfully exported.=20

<>Steve Witham
Don't dream it, su to it.