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
  • Spatialized Network Analysis
  • Risk Terrain Modeling

Criminology The Mapping and Spatial Analysis of Crime
Shannon E. Reid, George Tita, Matthew Valasik
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 March 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2019
  • 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 in this section focus primarily on crime-specific analyses but vary on the level of methodological rigor (ranging from introductory texts with 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. Leitner 2013 is an edited volume with eighteen chapters of innovative studies on geospatial research centered around a variety of crime-related topics. 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. Many of the examples are drawn from the field of environmental criminology. Hart and Lersch 2015 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. Boba-Santos 2017 is a core text in crime analytics that presents evidence-based approaches to conduct crime analysis with crime mapping. Additionally, Boba-Santos 2017 incorporates the updated definitions used by the International Association of Crime Analysts to make sure readers are presented with material recognized by the profession. 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. Radil 2016 provides a general guide to the expansive field of spatial analysis for criminology that emphasizes the overall foundation concepts to crime analytic techniques. Walker and Dwarve 2018 presents a theoretical and methodological introduction to crime mapping that is accessible, connecting the foundations of environmental criminology and crime mapping with modern statistical methods. Gorr, et al. 2018 is a GIS workbook for students of crime mapping and crime analysis to learn and apply advanced methods to analyze crime patterns in Esri’s ArcGIS Desktop (Version 10.6.1) (cited under GIS Software), the most commonly used GIS software.

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

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    This text uses both a retrospective and prospective approach to the field of spatial analysis. Combines previously published classic articles with current writings by the foremost experts on the use of spatial data analysis in the social sciences. Four principle aspects to spatial analysis are emphasized, employing spatial analysis, pattern analysis, local statistics, and illustrative empirical analysis.

  • Boba-Santos, Rachel. 2017. Crime analysis with crime mapping. 4th ed. Los Angeles, CA: SAGE.

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    Provides a foundational understanding of conceptual and practical applications of crime analysis and crime mapping to both academic and practitioner audiences. Is the principal introductory text for crime analysis, providing an in-depth description for the field, along with guidelines and techniques for conducting evidence-based crime analysis. Provides a good balance of theory, research methods, and statistics to readers.

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

    DOI: 10.1002/9781118685181E-mail Citation »

    Serves as a reference for either practitioners or researchers by providing information and reference material to support the development and implementation of crime mapping. Case studies are utilized to highlight key concepts and applications of crime mapping at varying levels to support operational policing, tactical crime mapping, and detection of crime. The text is an amalgamation of theory, analytical techniques, solutions to data processing, problem-solving approaches, organizational structure, and map design principles.

  • Gorr, Wilpen L., Kristen S. Kurland, and Zan M. Dodson. 2018. GIS tutorial for crime analysis. 2d ed. Redlands, CA: Esri.

    E-mail Citation »

    This workbook presents state-of-the-art methods to map and analyze crime data using Esri’s ArcGIS Desktop (Version 10.6.1) (cited under GIS Software), one of the most ubiquitous GIS software packages in use. The techniques provided in the text will allow individuals the ability to build, maintain, and examine crime data for use in a professional law enforcement organization. Step-by-step tutorials focus on data preparations and updating, building map templates, utilizing map queries for analysis, automation of maps, and predictive modeling skills.

  • Hart, Timothy C., and Kim M. Lersch. 2015. Space, time, and crime. 4th ed. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic.

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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. A highly readable text that provides an in-depth discussion on the geography of crime, using both real-world examples and illustrations from empirical research. After discussing the historical roots and modern applications of theories used to explain crime concentrations, the practical applications are then addressed. The text concludes with a Marxist-based critique of the theories, policies, and tools presented for the reader to reflect upon.

  • Leitner, Michael, ed. 2013. Crime modeling and mapping using geospatial technologies. New York: Springer.

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    This edited volume examines a variety of topics related to fundamental spatial problems, crime analysis, crime mapping, and the application and implementation of geospatial technology to enhance public safety. This book highlights innovative geospatial research across a variety of research sites including urban areas in the United States, United Kingdom, Belgium, Canada, and Mexico. Some topics include the residential mobility of sex offenders, journey to crime analysis, spatial vulnerability to crime, spatial configurations of homicide, and spatial contagion of drug offending.

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

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    Demonstrates how local communities can utilize crime mapping to combat neighborhood crime problems and enhance cooperation with the police. This text highlights the implementation of a computerized crime mapping system in the Chicago area to better understand how data is utilized and also better approaches to collecting and handling data. A significant contribution is made by this text, arguing for a more efficient and intelligent use of crime data to aid local communities.

  • Radil, Steven M. 2016. Spatial analysis of crime. In The handbook of measurement issues in criminology and criminal justice. Edited by Beth M. Huebner and Timothy S. Bynum, 535–554. New York: John Wiley.

    DOI: 10.1002/9781118868799.ch24E-mail Citation »

    This chapter provides a general guide to the expansive field of spatial analysis for criminology. Careful attention is paid to the importing of techniques outside of the field of criminology to be adapted and used in criminological research. An emphasis is placed on the overall foundation concepts to crime analytic techniques. Distinctions are made for both areal and point-based analyses, including the prevalent techniques employed. The choice of scale, measuring distance between spatial units, and the employment of spatial autocorrelations are also discussed.

  • Walker, Jeffery T., and Grant R. Dwarve. 2018. Foundations of crime analysis: Data, analyses, and mapping. New York: Routledge.

    DOI: 10.4324/9781315716442E-mail Citation »

    Provides a practical understanding of crime analysis that is accessible to a general audience. Walker and Dwarve deliver a comprehensive overview of techniques utilized by crime analysts. The text is an excellent resource for both academics and practitioners that are involved in analyzing crime. Balances the discussion of crime analysis, crime mapping, crime prevention, and environmental criminology topics.

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