Geographic Information System (GIS) technology allows police and public safety officials to link maps, pictures, and other information together to get an overall view that can be useful in emergencies.

"The whole thing about GIS is that it can give you a picture of a place and everything that revolves around it all at once," says Austin, Texas, Police Department manager of information technology Al Johnson. "It allows you to see patterns and how they correlate in ways you could've never imagined."

GIS is a way of using computers to layer data on maps, such as crimes sorted by a particular criterion or real estate information. Austin investigators used GIS to track a pattern of commercial burglaries, while in Nacogdoches police and others used GIS data to find debris from the Columbia space shuttle.

Entering an address can provide information and maps, while some police with GIS-equipped computers in their cars can get information from city tax records and other databases so they know the layout of a house.

According to a 2003 survey by Public Technology, some 97 percent of municipalities with over 100,000 people use GIS in some way, but it is becoming more important for public safety and law enforcement.
Abstracted by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center(NLECTC) from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (08/22/04) P. 1B; Keefe, Bob .