Race, Ethnicity, and Policing: New and Essential Readings

By Stephen K. Rice; Michael D. White Roberts | Go to book overview

Chapter 8

Using Geographic Information Systems to Study Race, Crime, and Policing

Matt R. Nobles


Introduction

Recently, the relationships between space (in the ecological or geographical sense) and other social phenomena have benefitted from advancements of powerful technologies that put new analytical methods into the hands of researchers and practitioners alike. In particular, GIS (Geographic Information Systems) has become indispensible in the study of policing, where it is relied on to help identify patterns in offending, guide resource deployment and targeted interventions, increase awareness of police-community relations, and a host of other roles. Although many examples of the application of GIS technology to policing may be available in the field, one highly visible model is the use of CompStat, a GIS-focused approach to investigation, problem solving, resource management, and accountability in routine police patrol. CompStat represents not only an adoption of new technological tools in the fight against crime, but also a shift in strategic and tactical decision making that puts crime data and geographical information at the forefront of proactive policy. This chapter briefly acknowledges the extensive and diverse literature connecting geography, race, and policing to the study of crime before turning to a discussion of the methodological advantages of using GIS to visualize these relationships. Several case studies involving the use of GIS in the study of race, crime, and policing are presented, followed by a discussion of GIS as a less obvious tool for identifying and combating social problems.


Literature Review

Perspectives on Place, Race, and Crime

Scholars in criminology, sociology, and related fields have long embraced the idea that crime is related to geography. This concept is readily identified in some of the most influential criminological theories,1 beginning with the Chicago School emphasizing human ecology and social disorganization,2 and later extending to more literal interpretations and implications for urban design and crime prevention policy.3

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