Most law enforcement executives are by now familiar with both computer mapping and networking. Computer mapping is a powerful tool, merging raw street intelligence and advanced data tables into a vigorous medium suitable for both large and small-scale agencies, while data processing networks/local area networks are the standard norm for any agency.
The amount of time, data and personnel often determines the workload of any computer mapping effort. Limited budget demands dominate most agencies, and getting the most for your dollar is the constant challenge with today's limited resources. The process detailed in this article offers a powerful, yet simple tool, enabling an agency to get the most out of its data network.
Using standard desktop computers and basic office networks, we describe procedures enabling a paperless crime analysis service through a distributed network. Crime analysis reports, bulletins and detailed data mapping distributed over an agency-wide network can be achieved at little extra cost, regardless of the agency's size.
For purposes of this article, we assume your agency operates primarily upon a Windows NT network (stay tuned for future articles discussing Linux applications); similar applications are available with Novell systems. Within your data network, you will have enabled a functional 'intranet,' a website that serves as a crossroads for your various internal bureaus and offices. Through intranets, system users access the data network from their workstations through a browser (Netscape or Explorer, depending upon your choice) and click upon various options. We will exploit this network option to our advantage.
MapInfo was used for this article, although other mapping programs (ArcView, ArcInfo) allow the same procedures to take place. We also assume that your agency operates with a fully functioning crime analysis/mapping unit enabling personnel to routinely retrieve and map any and all significant crime activity.
You will soon find that, upon completion of this approach, personnel will become hungry for the data that's created. Once started, your agency will find it hard to go back!
To create a paperless crime analysis network, follow these steps:
1) Retrieve and export your data.
Obtain data from your storage point as you normally would for a crime mapping effort (i.e., downloading crime reports from your AS/400, network, mainframe, RAID, etc.). Whether you choose to export your data into Access, Paradox, Excel, Lotus 1-2-3, StarOffice or any other program format is irrelevant; use what is familiar and comfortable. What is important is that you are able to retrieve and export your data for usage into your mapping program on a routine basis.
Crime analysis information data should be clearly defined, timely and above all, relevant for the appropriate users. Unless the information you put out is useful and relevant, there is little reason why you should continue with this effort.
2) Begin mapping.
Initiate the mapping program, geocoding your dataset(s) as you normally would. Assign the appropriate (and most effective) symbols, labeling your map accordingly. Your primary goal is to make your maps clear and easy to view. Ask yourself whether this map could be readily duplicated on a copier in black and white. At this stage, what you see is what you and your agency are going to get.
For large or busy jurisdictions it is often wise to break maps into sectors or precincts (based upon your agency's designations). Larger maps tend to distort and confuse while smaller, more detailed maps offer clearly defined data points and relevant street locations. This is especially helpful if your agency employs walking beats.
Agencies using laptops will find this approach invaluable. Command personnel may conduct patrol assignments based upon the information they view from a patrol vehicle laptop; walking patrols naturally would prefer more detailed maps depicting neighborhoods or city clocks. …