The purpose of this research paper was to review some of the current research on crime mapping, the process through which crime analysts and researchers use location information about crime to detect spatial patterns in criminal activity. Although the history of crime mapping can be traced to the beginnings of the field of criminology, it is only recently that researchers and crime analysts have been able to engage in extensive mapping efforts, primarily due to the development of the desktop computer and GIS software. The emergence of the problem-oriented policing model, along with advances in the theory of criminal events, created a niche for crime mapping in police agencies. The popularization of computerized crime mapping through the Compstat program in New York led to a period of rapid adoption of crime mapping that continues today.
Several theories that are widely used in crime mapping research were also discussed in this research paper. Social disorganization theory argues that structural factors can compromise the social networks needed for social integration, which in turn reduces the capacity of communities to regulate the behavior of its members. Routine activities theory states that crime can be understood through the convergence in time and space of suitable targets, motivated offenders, and the absence of capable guardians. Defensible space and CPTED focuses on how the design of a physical space can prevent crime through increasing territorial functioning and enhancing surveillance capabilities. The rational choice and crime pattern theories of crime focus primarily on explaining how patterns of offender routine activities and target-searching strategies can increase the level of crime in particular areas. Taken together, these theories provide the conceptual backdrop for understanding the spatial distribution of crime and designing strategies to combat crime in high-crime areas.
Finally, this research paper aimed to elaborate on some of the major findings in crime mapping and spatial crime research, with particular attention to designing strategies to combat crime problems. It was argued that the best strategy for eliminating crime hot spots requires consideration of causal factors operating at both the neighborhood and site levels. This research paper concluded with a number of suggestions for future researchers examining spatial crime patterns through crime mapping. In particular, crime mapping research may benefit from efforts at theoretical integration, using crime mapping with additional agencies, further examining the source of differences in the production of criminal opportunities between city features, and examining the stability of crime areas over time.
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