In Florida, a GIS clears the road for 'proactive policing'

Joggers and bikers in Florida's Pinellas County can hit the trail with greater peace of mind, thanks to the Enforcer Project, a crime mapping program which gives police an edge on muggers and other criminals.

The Pinellas County Enforcer Project is a cross-jurisdictional enterprise geographic information system for mapping crime. The Web interface uses Autodesk MapGuide from Autodesk of San Rafael, Calif. It integrates all of the law enforcement data from 12 municipal agencies and the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

'Crime mapping allows you to see hot spots and patterns and to see where crime is shifting to. The ability to analyze crime allows you to really know exactly where things are occurring,' said Tim Burns, justice information analyst with the county's Justice Coordination Department.

Police can use crime mapping, for instance, to see where burglaries have taken place along the Pinellas Trail, a popular recreation spot. 'Proactive policing is the biggest benefit of the Enforcer Project at this time,' Burns said. 'If you're being proactive, you're working toward prevention of crime.'

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office enters crime data into the system each night. 'With this approach, you can look at how a certain policing approach has shifted crime,' Burns noted.

The county decided to go with a Web interface because it allows decentralized access to crime mapping.

Instead of having just one or two people at desktops analyzing data and handing out maps, anyone in the agency can tap critical crime information.

Currently, there are about 180 users, all of whom are involved in law enforcement, Burns said. Officials expect the number of users to exceed 240 by year's end.

One of the most notable benefits of the Enforcer Project has been felt by the staff of the county's sexual predator and sex offender management program. Under Florida law, sexual predators are not allowed to live within 1,000 feet of a school, homecare or daycare center. Law enforcement officials are required to notify schools and daycare centers if a sexual predator or sex offender takes up residence within a one-mile radius of their location.

At any given time, there are about 780 sex offenders and 25 to 30 sexual predators living in Pinellas County, Burns said.

The Enforcer Project provides the Corrections Department staff with maps which have proven valuable in court proceedings. The project also has allowed the staff to prevent sex offenders from moving into prohibited areas. 'Basically, they've been able to become much more proactive, and less reactive,' said Burns.

The Enforcer Project resides within the Pinellas County intranet, which provides systems security. The county launched its GIS in the late 1980s and added the first phase of the Enforcer Project two years ago. The GIS now has hundreds of data layers'for parcels, schools, banks, daycare and homecare centers, roads, networks and waterways'that can be compared with crime data.

The county uses an RS/6000 intranet server from IBM Corp. running an Oracle Corp. database. The MapGuide application runs on its own server, which queries the information it needs from the RS/6000 server, Burns said.

The department plans to migrate the Enforcer Project to the Independent Client Architecture from Citrix Systems of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The second phase of the project will involve crime analysis in addition to crime mapping.

Burns said the system has the potential to grow. 'In the past year-and-a-half, it's really taken off,' he added, 'as more agencies start to understand what it can do for them.'

'Kathy Hart


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