Police GIS data analysis system praised in Redlands

(REDLANDS, Calif.) -- In Austin, Texas, a computer-based mapping technology was used by police to track violent street gangs. In Lincoln, Neb., officers used it to analyze sexual assaults on a university campus.

And in Redlands, officers use the geographic information systems technology, together with broader community-policing efforts, to detect crime patterns and other neighborhood problems and come up with solutions.

The method of using computer-mapping and data analysis is working so well that Redlands Police Chief James Bueermann said he has discussed his use of GIS with Vice President Al Gore on three occasions.

"GIS is a very powerful method to look at large amounts of data and make sense of that data to make data-based decisions," Bueermann said during a University of Redlands presentation Wednesday on using the mapping system in police work. "It makes us more efficient and more effective."

Bueermann was among several speakers during a "GIS Goes to Hollywood" presentation. The event also highlighted the use of GIS in plots for the new television crime-drama "The District."

The presentation was part of a daylong event that focused on the ways GIS is used in business, education, industry and police work. The technology is regarded by many as a powerful, versatile way to visually examine large amounts of information.

Former Redlands Police Chief Lew Nelson discussed its use in police work by local, county and national law enforcement agencies. Nelson now works for the Redlands-based Environmental Systems Research Institute, a company that offers GIS services to clients.

In North Carolina, police officers used the technology to map street layouts and combine them with information on traffic patterns, drug sales and violent crimes, he said. The Illinois State Police use GIS to analyze homicide rates and sexual predators throughout various counties.

"You can map this right down to the hundred-block level," Nelson said.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department also uses GIS software. Bueermann said officers using GIS discovered that some neighborhoods that were riddled with blight also housed residents that were least likely to vote. In another case, the department made efforts to provide recreation activities to school children and promote homeownership after GIS analyses pointed out neighborhoods with high rates of renters and resident turnover.

"It's very hard for a human to see these patterns from reams of data, a spreadsheet format," Bueermann said. "When you map . . .you get it instantly."

(iSyndicate; The Press-Enterprise; Nov. 16, 2000). Terms and Conditions: Copyright(c) 2000 LEXIS-NEXIS, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights Reserved.

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