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Police Officers' Perceptions of Maps and Aerial Photographs

NCJ Number
Date Published
14 pages
This study examined police officers’ perceptions of maps and aerial photographs, specifically the most useful types of maps and the relationship between the area covered and the detail covered in the maps.
Geographic information systems (GIS) have been increasingly adopted by law enforcement agencies throughout the world. However, a key point of interest has become how effectively maps and related media communicate information. In this study supported by the U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, 24 police officers from Baltimore County, MD, were interviewed to examine the utility of alternative visualizations of crime data presented in varying geographic scales. The intent was to offer a better understanding of the effectiveness of maps and aerial photographs. Officers universally recognize the value of GIS for crime mapping. The findings of the survey suggest several conclusions. Officers viewed centerline maps favorably even though it was said by some that it was difficult to relate crime locations to other map features. Aerial photography received relatively greater approval at the neighborhood level compared to community scale. It was suggested that some officers believed that the aerial photographs and building footprints made the map more difficult to read and interpret. Officers had firm opinions about which types of maps they preferred when seeing crime locations at the neighborhood scale. The opinions of officers regarding the types of features displayed on maps at a community scale were more varied. The underlying assumption was that richer images conveyed more information and ultimately resulted in better decisionmaking. References and appendices A-B

Date Published: January 1, 2004