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2014 | Book

Forensic GIS

The Role of Geospatial Technologies for Investigating Crime and Providing Evidence

Editors: Gregory A. Elmes, George Roedl, Jamison Conley

Publisher: Springer Netherlands

Book Series : Geotechnologies and the Environment


About this book

A variety of disciplines and professions have embraced geospatial technologies for collecting, storing, manipulating, analyzing and displaying spatial data to investigate crime, prosecute and convict offenders, exonerate suspects and submit evidence in civil lawsuits. The applications, acceptability and relevance and procedural legality of each geospatial technologies vary. The purpose of this book is to explain the nature of geospatial technologies, demonstrate a variety of geospatial applications used to investigate and litigate civil and criminal activities and to provide a reference of current acceptability of geospatial technology in the production of evidence. This book is an introductory overview designed to appeal to researchers and practitioners across disciplinary boundaries. The authors of this book are researchers and practitioners across disciplines and professions, experts in the field.

Table of Contents


Fundamentals: Definitions, Concepts, Theories, and Principles

Chapter 1. Concepts, Principles, and Definitions
Forensics is the application of science to solve crime. Geographic Information Science, encompassing geospatial information and technology (GIT), has become established within the criminology and forensic fields in the last decade. Law enforcement agencies and forensic investigators embrace geospatial science and technologies for collecting, storing, manipulating, analyzing, and displaying spatial data, resulting in new information, procedures, and models for investigation, policy, and decision making. Applications, acceptability, relevance, and procedural legality of geospatial technologies vary substantially, leading to the assessment of their roles in law enforcement, rules of evidence, protection of privacy, and constitutional liberties. This chapter discusses the context and principles of geospatial technologies and the integration of geospatial tools, principles, and methods into a five-stage model of crime analysis and investigation.
Gregory A. Elmes, George Roedl, Jamison Conley
Chapter 2. Geospatial Technologies in the Courtroom
The function of a court is to resolve disputes through a legal process. With few exceptions, the progression of a legal case will follow the strict guidelines of rules and codes developed from numerous court decisions to fairly and efficiently securing a just determination. All federal courts adhere to a flexible set of rules published in the Federal Rules of Evidence (FRE). The FRE provides rules and definitions governing general provisions, judicial notice, presumptions, relevance, privileges, witnesses, expert witnesses, hearsay, and authentication. However, there are as yet no special rules governing the use of geospatial technologies or spatial data. From a pragmatic legal perspective, spatial data differs immensely from the traditional form of evidence. However, the power of spatial information is extremely persuasive and compelling in litigation. While the acceptance of spatial data and methods has increased in litigation, there are also several issues that merit careful consideration when using spatial data. This chapter examines key rules and court decisions that impact the potential admissibility of spatial data and technologies in a modern courtroom.
George Roedl, Gregory A. Elmes, Jamison Conley
Chapter 3. Spatial Tracking Applications
In this chapter, various technologies that permit law enforcement agencies to track people and objects through time and space are discussed. Innovative applications of spatial technologies have been adopted by law enforcement agencies to reduce crime, apprehend offenders, and keep officers safe. A brief review of each technology is given followed by examples in which the technologies have been successfully utilized. Specifically, this chapter examines the following: (1) Global Positioning Systems, (2) cellular phone tracking, (3) unmanned aerial vehicles, (4) automated license plate recognition technology, and (5) radio frequency identification technology.
George Roedl, Gregory A. Elmes, Jamison Conley
Chapter 4. Spatial Technology Applications
This chapter presents an overview of the various spatial technologies that are utilized by law enforcement agencies to document evidence for the preservation of crime scenes which can be used for further investigations or as evidence during trial. The first technology presented is remote sensing. Four of the more common types of remote sensing are discussed: aerial photography, satellite imagery, ground-penetrating radar, and thermal imaging. The chapter continues with a discussion of geographic information systems and their application for crime mapping and analysis as well as geographic profiling. A review of the innovative uses of laser scanning technologies to document crime and accident scenes concludes the discussion.
George Roedl, Gregory A. Elmes, Jamison Conley

Case Studies

Chapter 5. Using Near Repeat Analysis for Investigating Mortgage Fraud and Predatory Lending
Mortgage fraud and predatory lending are pervasive white-collar crimes that are difficult to investigate. As such, fraud investigators must use analytical techniques that can identify loans with the greatest potential to show systematic irregularities in the lending process. Foreclosures from the 2000 decade housing crisis are widely known to have occurred because of large-scale fraud, to which many were clustered. Despite displaying geographic patterns, an approach that has rarely been considered for fraud investigations from foreclosures is to use spatial analysis to identify geographic patterns of these crimes. We demonstrate in this chapter a spatial analysis method that can be applied more widely to help fraud investigators identify loans for scrutiny that show geographically systematic patterns of foreclosure.
Ronald E. Wilson, Ann D. Fulmer
Chapter 6. State Registration of Sex Offenders: Public Notification, Web Mapping, and Spatial Issues
State governments in the United States register sex offenders and provide to the public notification of the location, identifying information and criminal history of these registered sex offenders (RSOs). Four fifths of US states use web maps to achieve this goal. The design, content, and maintenance of these RSO web maps vary greatly. This chapter examines the history of registration of sex offenders, similarities and differences among RSO web maps and spatial issues related to them, as well as the use and misuse of these web maps.
Mark R. Leipnik, Xinyue Ye
Chapter 7. The SDIK Police Model: How to Make the Invisible Visible
The current public policy for international security is fundamentally different to that prevailing at the end of the last century. A radical change in context means that traditional strategies and urban policing models have to be revised and adapted to a new reality. Police science, new policing strategies, and approaches have evolved to give answers to new challenges in security. The police model “Science, Data, Intelligence, Knowledge” (SDIK) incorporates technical-scientific and geospatial innovations to understand emerging communities and uncover evidence of criminal activity. SDIK launched a project to study new religious movements in communities and neighborhoods of the city of Castellón de la Plana (Spain). The project combines two main objectives: first, to achieve knowledge of the impacts and perceptions of new religious organizations and, second, to establish connections between new religious organizations and other activities, some of which may be patterns of illegal or disorderly behavior. To ensure safety and peaceful coexistence in cities, it has become imperative to make visible the apparently invisible.
Manuel Rodríguez Herrera, Daniel Salafranca Barreda
Chapter 8. Spatial Analysis of Fear of Crime and Police Calls for Service: An Example and Implications for Community Policing
Individuals’ fear of crime exhibits a complex spatial relationship with not just actual crime incidents, but a mix of actual crime, perceptions of crime, neighborhood disorder, and collective efficacy. If people have a high fear of crime, they may be more likely to report suspicious or criminal activities to the police. The fear of crime individuals maintain is most often directly linked to the fear of violent crime; however, a spatially explicit examination of the impact of violent crime calls for service to police officers, neighborhood disorder and collective efficacy on the fear of crime is still needed. In the current study, we examine the relationship among all of these factors using measures of spatial correlation and spatial regression. While the reactive policing strategy of responding to calls for service is more cost-effective than community policing, targeted proactive strategies might be more useful for long-term crime prevention. Our findings illustrate the potential of spatial analysis in informing policing strategies, by highlighting variation in the spatial relationships between fear of crime, violent crime incidents, collective efficacy, and neighborhood disorder. Using the results of this type of analysis can lead to a better use of police resources to avert crime.
Jamison Conley, Rachel Stein
Chapter 9. Using GIS to Monitor and Investigate Police Use of Force: The Spatial Distribution of Force Factors
This chapter describes the potential utility of geospatial analysis as applied to monitoring, understanding, and responding to police use-of-force incidents. Data are drawn from 1,240 official use-of-force reports in the City of Seattle, representing a two and a quarter year period. Each report includes officer identifier information, suspect demographic information, a categorization of the type of suspect resistance and how force was applied, as well as information about location, booking, injuries, and evidence of impairment or suspected impairment. In addition to coding these administrative data elements, the authors coded the content of the officer narratives with regard to the nature of officer-suspect interactions as well as relevant Graham factors. Force and resistance levels were classified based on complementary scales drawing from previous research. All use-of-force data was attributed to geocoded incident locations. A series of maps and basic spatial statistics demonstrate how GIS can assist in understanding the nature and scope of police use of force and potentially improve the quality of police monitoring and accountability mechanisms.
Matthew J. Hickman, Loren T. Atherley, Geoffrey P. Alpert
Chapter 10. Mapping Spatiotemporal Patterns of Liquor Law Violation Citations During Oktoberfest in College Town of La Crosse, Wisconsin
Annual events like Oktoberfest, Mardi Gras, and Halloween are very popular among young crowds, especially in college towns, and a significant part of the celebration consists of alcohol consumption. Binge drinking during such celebrations often results in alcohol-related crime, assaults, vandalism, and even fatal accidents. Yet, in crime studies, little research has been conducted to investigate the impact of such events on dynamics of crime and underage drinking in the local communities. The present study aims to analyze the influence of Oktoberfest on spatiotemporal pattern of underage drinking in college town of La Crosse in southwest Wisconsin. The study uses 5 years (2008–2012) of liquor law citation records and GIS techniques to explore the spatiotemporal pattern of underage drinking during the week of Oktoberfest and a week before and after the festival. Analysis conducted using grid thematic maps and local information showed that the local celebration of Oktoberfest results in an increased number of liquor law violations citations which coincided with increased number of fatal accidents, alcohol-related crimes, and public nuisance. Knowledge gained from results of grid thematic mapping was used to create a multi-criteria evaluation (MCE) that helped to identify a probability surface for high concentration of liquor law violation and thus underage drinking in certain parts of the town. Validation of the resultant map shows that 85–97 % of the citation location in last 5 years falls within the high probability zone delineated by our map. This type of mapping approach is useful to the local law enforcement officials and volunteer watch groups to provide focused deployment of intervention measures and increased vigilance to restrict alcohol consumption of underage youths and prevent associated crime and accidents.
Gargi Chaudhuri, Steven Oxley, Scott Wenzlaff
Chapter 11. A Web-Based GIS for Crime Mapping and Decision Support
Timely mapping of crime locations and accurate detection of spatial concentrations of crime help to identify where crimes concentrate in space and time and thus provide important information for crime reduction efforts of law enforcement. The main objective of this chapter is to design and implement a Web-based GIS for crime mapping and decision support. The prototype system allows users to detect and view crime hotspots in a Web environment in the form of thematic layers overlaid on background data. Four hotspot mapping techniques, i.e., choropleth mapping, grid mapping, spatial ellipse mapping, and kernel density mapping, are implemented. The system can be used for mapping crime hotspots, predicting the locations of future crime, and optimizing crime reduction efforts. It is a rich Internet application and is much more efficient than script-based clients in hotspot detection, map manipulation, and rendering. It is entirely based on open-source software, making it affordable for many small- and medium-sized police departments in developing countries. Results from the prototype development demonstrate that for a Web-based crime mapping and decision support system, rich Internet application technology in combination with open-source software is an effective solution in terms of both system performance and financial cost.
Guiyun Zhou, Jiayuan Lin, Xiujun Ma
Chapter 12. Use of Geographically Weighted Regression on Ecology of Crime, Response to Hurricane in Miami, Florida
Research has illuminated the complex natural and social processes that occur after a natural disaster. Despite emergent efforts given to understanding the relationship between natural disasters and crime, few geographers have studied the effect that natural disasters have on the space-time behavior of crime patterns using local-level data. This research highlights aspects of change in patterns of crime as a result of a hurricane disaster; the underlying social, economic, and demographic characteristics may contribute explanations of the changes. Specifically, this study analyzes multiple types of crime as a response to Hurricane Wilma in Miami, Florida, 2005. The results reveal that more accurate predictions of crime for specific crime types in specific cities with use of geographically weighted regression are possible.
William C. Walker, Sunhui Sim, Lisa Keys-Mathews
Chapter 13. Delineating Legal Forest Boundaries to Combat Illegal Forest Encroachments: A Case Study in Murree Forest Division, Pakistan
The annual deforestation rate of Pakistan is 2.37 %, the highest degradation rate in Asian countries. Illegal encroachment on forest land is one of the major causes of deforestation in Pakistan. This study addresses the issue of forest encroachments in Murree Forest Division (MFD). MFD is a biodiversity-rich popular hill station of Punjab province and hosts thousands of visitors throughout the year. MFD comprises of 19,135 ha (47,285 acres) of state forest land, out of which 1,158.8 ha (2,862 acres) was identified as land encroached upon by the land grabbers, builders, and timber mafia. During the past decade this problem has drastically increased and led to a suo moto initiative by the Lahore High Court (vide Writ Petition No. 1813–2010). For the forensic support to the court, a detailed geographic information system and remote sensing baseline mapping have been carried out in close coordination with the Punjab Forest Department, Survey of Pakistan, Punjab Revenue Department, and WWF-Pakistan. Legal forest boundaries were delineated using high-precision surveying based on a Differential Global Positioning System and total station systems, whereas the encroachments were identified using high-resolution satellite images. The accuracy of these boundaries and encroachments was assessed and validated on the ground as well as on historic maps. The study outcomes were presented to the court as a supporting document of evidence to help them make a better decision against the encroachers and land retrieval. The main goal of the study was to prioritize conversion strategies for sustainable natural resources and segregate them into immediate, mid-term, and long-term process of land retrieval to restoring forests back to their original state. The study prompts the relevant government officials to adopt the latest mapping technologies of GIS, GPS, and RS for efficient forest management practices and sustainable enhancements.
Irfan Ashraf, Urooj Saeed, Naeem Shahzad, Javed Gill, Shahid Parvez, Akram Raja
Forensic GIS
Gregory A. Elmes
George Roedl
Jamison Conley
Copyright Year
Springer Netherlands
Electronic ISBN
Print ISBN

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