Recent Research Results
RRR logo GIS Helps To Measure Crime in Public Housing

To facilitate the systematic tracking of crime in public housing communities, HUD recently released the Guidebook for Measuring Crime in Public Housing with Geographic Information Systems. Historically, the evaluation of crime control initiatives in public housing has been hampered by the lack of crime data for these properties. In most jurisdictions with public housing, official police statistics on crime specific to those areas are simply not available.

Most law enforcement organizations base their statistics on relatively large geographic areas often called precincts or districts. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) have the ability to generate crime statistics in arbitrarily defined geographic areas, including small areas such as individual public housing developments and/or neighboring areas within a certain distance from a development.

The Guidebook provides public housing authorities (PHAs) and police departments (PDs) with a straightforward approach to establishing partnerships to map crime in public housing using GIS. This publication is based on HUD-sponsored research conducted by Research Triangle Institute, Inc. The aim of the guide is to assist PHAs and PDs as they embark on crime-data-sharing partnerships. In addition to enhancing efforts at measuring crime in public housing, these data-sharing partnerships can serve as the foundation of community policing in public housing.

The Guidebook describes an important prerequisite to PHA/PD GIS partnerships: The local PD must already be engaged in crime mapping in its routine data analysis activities. Successful GIS operations require significant investments in hardware, software, training, and experience. Therefore, unless the police have already made these investments for other purposes, using GIS to generate crime data that is specific to public housing will likely be beyond the ability of their crime analysis personnel.

The Guidebook recommends that an early step in the establishment of a PHA/PD GIS data-sharing partnership include a well-defined formal agreement that explicitly states both parties' responsibilities. The PHA should be prepared to reimburse the PD for the costs associated with the GIS process, including the fees of outside GIS consultants who may be needed to help with modifications to existing PD data-analysis systems.

At the outset of the data-sharing partnership, the PHA should provide the PD with up-to-date maps of its properties as well as current population figures for each property. The housing authority maps will allow the PD to overlay the coordinates of public housing communities on the jurisdiction's crime maps, thus enabling the PD to extract crime counts for PHA properties. The population data will be used to calculate crime rates.

GIS crime-mapping partnerships yield information on crime patterns in and around public housing communities that is potentially useful in the evaluation of PHA crime prevention initiatives and in crime control planning by both partners.

HUD-sponsored research that helped create the Guidebook suggested that the PHA maps helped local PDs adjust their routine patrols of neighborhoods with public housing properties and, equally important, enhanced public housing residents' overall access to emergency services.

Guidebook for Measuring Crime in Public Housing with Geographic Information Systems includes technical issues for collecting data, guidance on how to use the GIS software, use of GIS to generate statistics and provide graphic representations of information, and a glossary of terms. It also offers resources for technical assistance, including information on recent publications on GIS and crime mapping.

Order Guidebook for Measuring Crime in Public Housing with Geographic Information Systems from HUD USER for $5. Use the order form.

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