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Computer Mapping: A Proven Tool to Fight Arson

NCJ Number
Fire and Arson Investigator Volume: 47 Issue: 1 Dated: (September 1996) Pages: 15-18
W E Lutz
Date Published
4 pages
Using public tax records as data input for off-the-shelf computer programs such as MapInfo and Paradox Database enables fire and police departments to identify and focus their prevention efforts on arson target zones.
The computer mapping approach described in this article was developed in Camden, N.J. An important technique in computer mapping is the application of "layering." Layering creates map layers by mapping individual databases and placing each map on top of the other. The key to successful computer mapping is choosing layers in terms of practical relevance. The Camden computer mapping project drew upon several types of records and created several key layers. Using prior fire records from the fire department and from past major incident/crime reports of the police department, a listing of those properties that experienced arson fires was collated into one layer. Properties in lien in conjunction with their respective water and sewer usage record were also collated and created into another layer. Another dataset/mapping layer to consider applying is that of properties with "negative equity." Other datasets/map layers used were drug locales, gang locales, and abandoned properties. After completion of a block-by-block analysis, any significant clusterings (specific locales where total datasets converged) were noted; and the primary target zones were ellipsed. The validity of this targeting approach was established by 1995 Halloween Eve arson activities. All but one of the arson fires occurred in or near the identified target zones. 5 figures