The Camden, N.J., Police Department has begun providing officers and personnel with access to crime mapping information via desktop computers and wireless laptops in patrol cars. The maps give supervisors a tool for crime analysis, and they help patrol officers focus their surveillance efforts in high-risk areas of the city.
For the last six years, the Police Department has usedsoftware from Troy, N.Y.-based MapInfo to map crime and assist detectives and supervisors in analyzing trends. A staff member created the maps based on the data detectives requested and distributed images of the completed maps through the department's intranet.
While the maps were helpful for crime analysis, they took a long time to create, and map distribution was inefficient. In June 2002, the department upgraded its software to allow all personnel to access pre-designed maps through the department's intranet.
In July, all personnel began accessing crime maps that contain detailed information about the location, time and type of crimes occurring in the city. Officers view the maps during their downtime to determine where to focus patrol efforts. “For the guys in the street, we just give the basic information of where things are happening,” says Sgt. Don Tuttle. “They can drive by those areas at those times to try to curb a little bit of [the activity] and maybe [arrest] somebody.”
In addition to tracking trends, the department uses the maps to pinpoint response. For example, when intrusion alarms are activated, officers can browse a “Business Locator” map that shows the locations of commercial entities and their respective alarm numbers and emergency contacts. Before officers had access to the GIS, they had to contact dispatchers and wait for a call back with a business' contact information.
The department manually updates its intranet with new crime report data. However, it plans to purchase additional hardware and software so that the site is updated automatically as the Records Bureau enters crime reports.
The department is working with other city departments to add data — such as abandoned properties and a complete list of businesses — to the GIS. It also is working with stateagencies to provide state officers with computer access to the city's crime maps. Eventually, the department would like to make some of the crime maps available to residents.