Understanding Crime Mapping and Hot Spots in the United States

Topics: Crime, Criminology, Police Pages: 13 (4454 words) Published: February 24, 2013
Crime is a part of everyday life all over the world today. There are violent crimes such as murder, rape, and robbery all the way down to small, petty crimes such as vandalism. But in some areas of the world, crime is much worse than in others. Why is that? This paper will focus on understanding hot spots and crime mapping throughout the United States. The topics discussed will be the history of crime mapping, how crime mapping is used today, hot spots in the U.S., social disorganization theories in crime mapping and hot spots, the broken windows theory, crime prevention through neighborhood communication and reporting and analyzing crime.

According to professor Sharon Chamard, the history of crime mapping traces its origin back to France in 1829 when Adriano Balbi and Andre Michel Guerry created maps that showed the relationship between violent and property crimes and educational levels (Chamard, 2006). Crime mapping has been a tool used for policing for a long time. Crime mapping has a long history and it has been adopted on a much broader basis since the advent of desktop computers made mapping dramatically easier. Crime mapping technology has not been without its problems, however. The software has lessened the time and labor required to generate maps, the production of sophisticated maps and their integration into policing have not been straightforward. But that is to be expected with any new technology being that no type of technology is perfect. But it is safe to say that crime mapping has helped law enforcement agencies significantly.

The early maps used by law enforcement agencies before the use of technology are examples of choropeth maps(Chamard, 2006). These are maps that display quantities of things in areas. These choropleth maps highlights the activities that are happening in the area. Some maps showed the levels of education. Some maps might show the level of crime in the area. Chamard also found through research that perhaps the best known early maps in criminology were created by the Chicago School sociologists Clifford Shaw and Henry McKay(Chamard, 2006). Shaw and McKay constructed a choropleth map using a collection of addresses of around 3,000 male delinquents in Chicago for the period 1927 to 1933. The map featured polygon shading to indicate rates of delinquency. Shaw and McKay also constructed point maps of the locations of the residences of about 10,000 male delinquents who had been involved in the Chicago juvenile court system from 1934 to 1940. Shaw and McKay noted that the spatial relations and distribution of juvenile delinquents’ homes remained fairly constant over these differing time spans despite the fact that the juveniles’ families moved to different homes in various areas of Chicago. There are advantages and disadvantages to the use of technology for crime mapping. According to Charmard, before the use of technology and computers, law enforcement agencies used to perform crime mapping techniques by placing a large map of the city on a wall inside the department. Officers would then take small needles and place it into a spot on the map to indicate in the city where the highest crime happened and where the most officers needed to be deployed(Chamard, 2006).

Technology changes in today’s society, such as the increase of the use of desktop computers, has been the main reason for the recent rapid growth in crime mapping by American police departments. Desktop computers have made the creation of maps much faster than the map and needles. Computerized crime mapping now relies less on labor-intensive processes; it is no longer necessary to draw maps by hand. Pressing only a few buttons on a keyboard produces similar effects. Desktop computers are also less prone to making mistakes than human laborers. However, despite the advantages of computerized crime mapping, there are disadvantages. First of all, not many police personnel had interest in learning how to use the new technology even...
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