Crime fighting with GIS : the case of Baton Rouge

Baton Rouge and crime

Baton Rouge’s authorities have developed an efficient tool to predict the places in which crime is most likely to happen. This new tool is strongly linked to the context of the town. In Baton Rouge, as well as in other  cities of Louisiana, crime has proven to be both a matter of safety and of social peace. Criminal incidents are often very violent, but also very common. In the summer of 2016, many incidents had caused a very strong feeling of indignation. One of them was the killing of three police officers as they had fallen into an ambush from criminals. The events of this summer were the starting point to the implementation of a major change. This new system is designed to prevent crime by putting in place a geography of crimes in the city. This whole system has been put in place thanks to an intern software called PSCOP for Public Safety Common Operational Platform.

Creating crime-related data: geography and experience

Baton Rouge’s police GIS Department has collected and analyzed data from police archives and also testimonies from police officers’s experiences. This has allowed the Department’s data analysts to establish trends about the nature, location and time of these crimes. Interviews with citizens were conducted and focuse on their calls to police. They offer a take on people’s sensibility and experiences with crime and space. They are also related to the way inhabitants of the city perceive crimes and violence. In regards to this point, some places have been identified as more unsafe than others.

Interactive map of crime in Baton Rouge

The localization of crimes: an old technique

The city  has developped models that can determine where crime is most likely to happen. This approach is very innovative in the sense that is predicts crime according to its environment more than on the criminals’ characteristics. For example, the GIS Departement has been able to prove, based on data, that homicides are thirteen times more likely to happen in areas with blighted properties.

This technique isn’t new. Mike King, who is a Geospatial Law Enforcement Expert and Brandon Jumonville, a Baton Rouge GIS analyst actually explain that it simply uses military techniques in urban setting.  However, although use of GIS to track crimes isn’t completely previously unseen, the developing of models in order to prevent crime is an interesting modern adaptation of those techniques.


An innovative approach

Combining those sets of data also means three major evolutions in the handling of criminal activities. Firstly it’s a way to mobilize police forces more efficiently. Instead of being on patrol around the city in a more or less random way, officers can target specific areas deter people from committing crimes.  The second point is that the main aim of this innovation is to prevent crime before it actually happens.  The last element is that thanks to those data, officers will focus on places where crimes occur and at the same time people who will be identified as potential suspects. Consequently it might be a way to reduce social and racial profiling, which is major in a state that still experiences strong social tensions.