Crime mapping goes to college

Geographic information system-based analysis is a hot topic in government circles, but there are few places government employees can go to get accredited training. That's one of the reasons Virginia's George Mason University believes its certification program in crime mapping and analysis has proven to be so popular.

The school's Department of Continuing Professional Education has had a general course on GIS for several years, but its professional certificate program in crime mapping and analysis is the first to target a particular area of use (cma.ocpe.gmu.edu).

The continuing education department had been running a degree program in criminal justice and had been looking for computer courses it could employ. The popularity of GIS seemed to make it a fit, said Erwin Villiger, George Mason's crime mapping and analysis program manager. However, the department couldn't find many suitable existing programs in the United States, so it saw an opportunity to offer its own.

"It typically takes a couple of years to get these kinds of programs up and running, and law enforcement agencies usually don't have the immediate funds to pay for them," he said. "But we've had a good response to this program."

The university is also talking with the FBI about taking the course in-house to the bureau's Quantico, Va., training facility, Villiger said, and Virginia officials have expressed interest in making it a standard certification program for the state.

The George Mason certification program is the only one available on the East Coast, he said. It joins just one other similar program in California, with a handful of smaller programs dotted across the country. There is no nationally or internationally recognized certification program for GIS crime mapping and analysis, "though there is a movement in that direction," Villiger said.

He believes the interest shown by the FBI could lead to the development of other GIS analysis programs for the intelligence community, and possibly for other areas such as the military and the health sector.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at hullite@mindspring.com.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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