Winston-Salem arrests juvenile crime with GIS
Winston-Salem, N.C., has developed a Web-based GIS application to help combat juvenile crime. Known as the Community Safety Information System (CSIS), the application allows city staff members and law enforcement officials to view on GIS maps the spatial relationships of data from many local agencies. The city has been able to analyze the data and implement crime intervention strategies, which have helped it reduce the number of juvenile arrests.
The CSIS is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice as part of the Strategic Approaches to Community Safety Initiative. The two-year-old initiative assists communities in combating local crime problems through partnerships with federal, state and local agencies.
Winston-Salem’s application collects spatial and relational data from city and county agencies, including the police department, sheriff’s department, school system, social services and probation office. The city’s well-established GIS infrastructure provides coverage for parcels, schools, jurisdictional boundaries, fire demand zones, hydrography, police beats and street centerlines. Additionally, the CSIS project has generated new data layers to show demographics, as well as the locations of abandoned and dilapidated housing, arrests, school districts and establishments that sell alcohol.
The application allows all participating agencies to conduct their own data analyses and use the system’s GIS capabilities. It was developed using Visual Basic from Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft; Crystal Reports from Scotts Valley, Calif.-based Seagate; MapObjects and Internet Map Server from Redlands, Calif.-based ESRI, and Oracle 7.3.3 from Redwood Shores, Calif.-based Oracle.
The Winston-Salem police department houses the CSIS, which is password protected. Queries are submitted via HTML forms, and the results are passed to the Web server where a map is created and sent as a graphic image to the client’s Internet browser.
Through the use of the application, the city has found that juvenile violence is clustered in four specific neighborhoods, with hot spots around certain blocks, dead-end streets and convenience stores. The application also has shown that older offenders often tutor younger ones, especially in drug offenses, and that a small number of offenders are responsible for most serious crimes.
Through analysis of the data, the city has identified a need for after-school and mentoring programs, and law enforcement officials have been focusing on cleaning up problem locations. As part of an outreach program, teams of clergy, social workers, probation officers, and sheriff’s and police officers visit neighborhoods to talk with troubled youth and their families.
Bringing data together from so many agencies has been a definite plus, says Julia Conley, senior information systems analyst with the Winston-Salem Police Department. “It’s so satisfying to see the level of collaboration and communication that has occurred across all of these agencies,” she says. “This project has shown us that the more we can communicate about what’s going on with juveniles to school counselors, probation, social serv-ices, and the more human connections we have, the more of a difference we can make.”
The city is updating the system as strategies for crime prevention are implemented. For instance, it is enhancing the CSIS to support arrest queries by arrestee home or arrest location, and offenders’ home addresses have been added as another GIS layer. The work conducted in Winston-Salem will serve as a model for other cities as they develop crime reduction programs.