In This Article The Mapping and Spatial Analysis of Crime

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Journals
  • Exploratory Spatial Data Analysis
  • Spatial Regression
  • Spatial Diffusion
  • Spatial Displacement
  • Understanding Crime Patterns
  • Journey to Crime
  • Spatial Typology of Crime

Criminology The Mapping and Spatial Analysis of Crime
Shannon E. Reid, George Tita
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 March 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 June 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396607-0123


The mapping and spatial analysis of crime covers a broad range of techniques and has been used to explore a variety of topics. In its most basic form, crime mapping is the use of Geographic Information System (GIS) to visualize and organize spatial data for more formal statistical analysis. Spatial analysis can be employed in both an exploratory and well as a more confirmatory manner with the primary purpose of identifying how certain community or ecological factors (such as population characteristics or the built environment) influence the spatial patterns of crime. Two topics of particular interest include examining for evidence of the diffusion of crime and in evaluating the effectiveness of geographically targeted crime reduction strategies. Crime mapping can also be used to visualize and analyze the movement or target selection patterns of criminals. Mapping software allows for the creation of electronic pin-maps and by spatially organizing the data, GIS increases the analytical value of these maps. Crime mapping allows researchers and practitioners to explore crime patterns, offender mobility, and serial offenses over time and space. Within the context of local policing, crime mapping provides the visualization of crime clusters by types of crimes, thereby validating the street knowledge of patrol officers. Crime mapping can be used for allocating resources (patrol, specialized enforcement) and also to inform how the concerns of local citizens are being addressed. The citations listed below highlight the interdisciplinary nature of both the study of crime and the development of the methods used in spatial analysis. They exemplify the growing prominence that spatial analysis has in understanding where crime occurs.

General Overviews

There are many texts that present the techniques and methods needed to map and analyze spatial data. Though we have avoided texts on the statistical and mathematical theory underlying methods of analysis, the texts listed below vary in terms of the subject matter (crime specific versus general methods) and the level of methodological rigor (ranging from introductory texts with plenty of empirical examples to texts that assume general familiarity with common methods). Anselin and Rey 2009 provides an overview of the methodological issues encountered when performing spatial analysis of both point patterns as well as more aggregate-level studies. This work is presented at a fairly sophisticated level, but it in includes many applications and examples that make it much more accessible to a general audience. Chainey and Ratcliffe 2005 offers a comprehensive overview of data processing, theoretical foundations, and basic and advanced spatial analysis. This book is also supplemented with numerous case studies to demonstrate the application of GIS and crime mapping. Golledge and Stimson 1996 shows how behavior theory and models are being utilized by geographers to examine a wide array of human behaviors within a spatial framework. Of particular interest are the decisions pertaining to residential choice and how space conditions human behavior based upon such demographic characteristics as gender, age, and mental/physical challenges. Haining 2003 provides a detailed look at the mechanics of the many statistical techniques used in the analysis of spatial data. Haining focuses on the analysis of areal units at the expense of covering spatial point processes and the intended audience ranges from beginning students of spatial analysis through the graduate (though not expert) level. Many of the examples are drawn from the field of environmental criminology. Lersch 2004 provides an introductory text to the theory, concepts, and methods related to the spatiotemporal analysis of crime. Though only the basic methods of mapping and analyzing crime are presented, the strength of the collection is tying the methods back to criminological schools of thoughts on the types of individuals that commit crime and where crime occurs. Maltz, et al. 2000 focuses on the application of mapping software and spatial analysis for use in the local community. They argue that crime mapping and analysis of crime within the criminal justice system should be used primarily to explore crime patterns and generate hypotheses rather than to conduct statistical tests. They demonstrate how crime mapping can be used to allocate policing resources and share information with local residents. They also provide a number of important ways in which crime mapping, as a tool, can be improved. Paulson and Robinson 2008 is designed as a classroom textbook that provides both theoretical aspects of spatial dynamics of crime and empirical examples.

  • Anselin, Luc, and S. Rey, eds. 2009. Perspectives on spatial data analysis. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.

    E-mail Citation »

    Combines previously published classic articles with current writings by the foremost experts on the use of spatial data analysis in the social sciences.

  • Chainey, Spencer, and J. H. Ratcliffe. 2005. GIS and crime mapping. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley.

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    Serves as a reference for either practitioners or researchers by providing information and reference material to support the development and implementation of crime mapping.

  • Golledge, R. D., and R. J. Stimson. 1996. Spatial behavior. New York: Guilford.

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    Examines human geography and the decision-making processes of humans within their spatial context at both the micro and macro level.

  • Haining, Robert. 2003. Spatial data analysis: Theory and practice. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511754944E-mail Citation »

    Provides a contextual and statistical background for the analysis of spatial data in the social sciences from both a scientific and policy perspective.

  • Lersch, Kim M. 2004. Space, time, and crime. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press.

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    Focuses on a wide range of theoretical explanations, policies, and investigative tools that can be used to identify high crime places, spaces, and times.

  • Maltz, M. D., A. C. Gordon, and W. Friedman. 2000. Mapping crime in its community setting: Event geography analysis. New York: Springer-Verlag.

    E-mail Citation »

    Demonstrates how local communities can utilize crime mapping to combat neighborhood crime problems and enhance cooperation with the police.

  • Paulsen, D. J., and M. B. Robinson. 2008. Crime mapping and spatial aspects of crime. 2d ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Allyn & Bacon.

    E-mail Citation »

    Approaches the spatial analysis of crime with a textbook approach that connects theory and practice.

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