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Review of GIS Tutorial for Crime Analysis, Second Edition

By Wilpen L. Gorr, Kristen S. Kurland, and Zan M. Dodson

Esri Press, 2018

348 pages, $84.99, soft cover.

ISBN: 978-1-58948-516-7

Review by: Janet Tennent, Montgomery College

GIS Tutorial for Crime Analysis, Second Edition

GIS Tutorial for Crime Analysis is a workbook designed for use by police forces interested in leveraging the power of GIS in various aspects of their work. Through the use of such tools, police organizations can turn raw data into useful information products, mapping incident reports, crime statistics, and modeled prediction scenarios. Analysis of the locations where crimes have occurred, and where contributing conditions and phenomena intersect, can lead to more accurate predictions of developing or future crime patterns. This in turn can assist in planning for resource allocation—allowing police forces to move their officers from lower crime areas to places they may be more urgently needed. GIS can also be used as a community outreach tool for showing the public what their police forces are doing, and helping educate both neighborhood watch committees and individual citizens about what they can do to help protect themselves.

The book is geared toward the GIS beginner, but readers will still find having some GIS background very helpful. Most chapters feature two or three thematic scenarios followed by two or more Tutorials and a couple of Assignments each. The tutorials give step-by-step explanations for each of the scenarios covered, and also provide examples of the sort of results one should expect when performing, say, an attribute query. The assignments present similar tasks in a more “your turn now” manner, without the hand-holding. If the book were to be used as a classroom text, these assignments could easily become homework tasks to be handed in for grading. As with any other GIS book or tutorial, it is always best to complete all the steps in order.

The numerous maps and diagrams throughout the book are very helpful—especially for an individual without a GIS background—and can be used as a measuring stick that allows the reader to confirm that they are correctly completing and understanding the steps.

GIS Tutorial for Crime Analysis shows several ways that GIS can be applicable to police work. It introduces the basics of GIS to the neophyte, and is a great review for the GIS student going into the law enforcement field. I was taking my first course in GIS at the same time I was reviewing this book, and for the most part I had no problems or difficulties following it. I found each of the scenarios very interesting. I did find it a little disappointing, however, that in working through the Chapter 7 “Geocoding crime incident data” exercises, ArcMap would crash at various points—during both the Tutorial and Assignment segments. I retried the steps several times, and the same crashes would happen again and again. Some advanced GIS students in my school have since told me that they experience the same or similar problems with ArcMap in their coursework. It is not clear if this is a bug in the ArcMap program, or if the problem is in the tutorial, but either way, it disrupts the learning process.

Software problems aside, GIS Tutorial for Crime Analysis, Second Edition is a useful and usable resource for anyone interested in using GIS for crime analysis and police work. It explains the what and the why, and shows the how, of building a crime-analysis system, and it does so from the ground up for a reader with minimal pre-existing GIS skills.