Mapping center could shed light on crime

The Justice Department's research arm is hoping a prototypical crime-mapping

center to be established next year for the Charlotte, N.C., area will be

the start of a chain of centers that would give researchers insight into

crime.

The spatial data repository will be made up of various public databases,

with the information geographically tagged so that users can put a crime

or series of crimes in the context of space.

"If a researcher is interested in knowing the relationship between

juvenile crimes and various other predictors, they can [use the repository

to] look at the time of day, the distance to schools, the distance to convenience

stores and the presence or absence of places with liquor licenses," said

Don Brown, whose University of Virginia computer systems department is designing

the repository.

The data to be stored and tagged is not limited to criminal incidents

and can include traffic patterns, demographics, retail manufacturing and

school locations. It is data that communities already store, but is often

not readily accessible to law enforcement officials or researchers, Brown

said.

What will go into the repository, he said, "depends on how much information

people would like to make available."

At the National Institute of Justice, which conducts crime research

for the Justice Department, an official said if the prototype is successful,

money to develop a fully operational spatial data repository would be requested

for the 2002 budget.

"What we're trying to do is develop a resource for criminal justice

researchers rather than . an operational system for local law enforcement,"

said Liz Groff, acting director of NIJ's Crime Mapping Research Center in

Washington, D.C.

NIJ is funding the prototypical repository for $35,000, Groff said.

The prototypical repository will include databases supplied by Charlotte

and the surrounding Mecklenburg County, but will be accessible to researchers

and law enforcement agencies elsewhere.

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