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Reflections on the Geographic Information System Used in the Criminal Justice System

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From policing to corrections, technology has been playing an increasingly important role within the criminal justice system. Computer records management and geographic crime-mapping systems have been used more frequently in order to grant effectiveness and efficiency when it comes to analyzing large amounts of crime data. As mentioned in the textbook ‘Criminal Justice in Canada’, “A crime mapping system called Geographic Information System (GIS), identifies the crime patterns in specific geographic areas such as neighborhoods or larger districts of a city” (Goff, 2019, p. 196). As these technological advancements keep scanning and portraying data, the department of justice can proceed to emphasize and execute the predictive policing approach. Wood and Shearing have stated that (as cited in ‘Criminal Justice of Canada’, 2019), “intelligence-led policing does not re-imagine the role of policing role, as much as it reimagines how the police can be smarter in the application of their unique authority and capacities”. For the criminal justice system to be as adequate in expeditiously locating and deterring crime, technology must have a sizeable increase of innovation to the point where data can be found by artificial intelligence before a patrol officer. This paper is reflecting the crime-mapping technology being used within the criminal justice system.

Description of the Geographic Information System

The Geographic Information System is a state-of-the-art crime mapping system that allows police to identify crime within specific areas based on precedent cases or victimization data. This technology is intended to provide clear site in finding crime by pinpointing hotspots and measuring the amount of crime within a certain area in order to induce future crime preventative programs. According to the textbook ‘Criminal Justice in Canada’, “sophisticated analytic technology and statistics are used to analyze this information and crime patterns; based on this information, predictions are made about locations where certain types of crime may occur” (Goff, 2019, p. 206). Not only will this benefit the broken window model of policing by targeting neighborhoods that give out constant triggers to the system, but in general it will allow police to start empowering crime preventative strategies rather than incurring in reactive policing tactics.

Advantages and Disadvantages of GIS

As mentioned, the Geographic Information System is innovative technology that provides ease of mind for police who want to locate and deter crime as efficiently as possible. Although in the maturing market of technology comes advancements that seem useful at the time but can always be improved to create an even more efficient way in locating crime. According to Natalie Ragoli (2019), GIS can understand trends in specific crimes. That makes it easier to identify potential offenders, protect possible victims, and reduce the threat of violence. The GIS can provide detailed information for police to discover exactly what kind of crime is occurring in what geographic area. The system is also able to collect specific crime data that can be categorized, which has tracked “the most common statistics which include the upper-tier offenses such as homicide, aggravated assault, forcible rape, and robbery. Other crimes that are monitored through this report include embezzlement, drug offenses, fraud, DUIs, forgery, and counterfeiting” (Ragoli, 2019, para 4). This will help police establish a plan in prioritizing patrols and preventative crime programs in certain areas based on crime severity data from the Uniform Crime Report and crime volume from police crime reports.

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The counter thought on the reliability of this data is about how much of this information relies on voluntary input from citizens. As nobody is forced to provide information regarding every single crime sprouting around these areas, institutions may not catch all these crime trends. According to Steven Barkan (2019), “some estimates suggest that as few as 3% of all criminal activity that happens in each community is discovered by a law enforcement official and noted in the data”. This means that real statistics may not be up to date with the recorded data within the GIS. Due to the categorization process of analyzing these crimes, offenders with multiple charges under the same offence may not have minor charges listed in GIS except the charge with the highest severity. This issue is influencing the GIS data in a way where only the most severe charges are shown within the system although the high volume of minor charges is disregarded. The concern advocates claim is that this system may be lacking important data when advertised otherwise and that this will alter the view of what crimes are really taking place within specific areas.

To What Extent Should GIS Be Implemented

Based on my understanding, patrol officers have been brought to the streets of Canada since the 18th century. As patrol officers are known to be the most visible component of the criminal justice system, communities have stressed to have officers roam the streets for active standby execution whenever a crime occurs. I believe the criminal justice system should have this innovative technology for the sake of reassurance in acquiring crime data. It is a good thing that the country contains this kind of technology that way we can incorporate a way to locate and deter crime efficiently. We still need patrol officers on standby in order to provide our citizens with a reassurance of safety and cooperation. Cassidy’s study (as cited in ‘Criminal Justice in Canada’, 2019) stated in the textbook ‘Criminal Justice in Canada’, “the strength of predictive policing is that it gives the police the potential to use their knowledge and information not in a reactive way, but instead in a way that can empower prevention strategies”. As this market matures, the only concern that I have amongst all the communities had in the 1960’s is to use this technology to complement their job and not replace it.


The Geographic Information System is technology that was introduced to the criminal justice system for the sake of efficiency in locating crime. From policing to corrections, GIS has provided a sense of ease to the reactive policing approach and commends a new intelligence-led approach which will rather initiate a predictive policing method. A work in progress indeed, as this information is to be properly accumulated with proper categorization and emphasis on all crimes whether minor or severe. Once enough data has been accumulated through the system, the computer will be able to detect crimes that a police officer was not able to catch through crime patterns and eventually artificial intelligence. We must also stress how this new approach of policing will maintain patrols of all kinds and overall have the GIS complementing the patrol method rather than replacing it. Considering the extensive amount of data flowing through the system, institutions can have the ability to gather this data and analyze crime patterns in order to create crime preventative programs.


  1. Goff, C. H. (2019). Intelligence-Led Policing. In Criminal Justice in Canada (7th ed., p. 202). Nelson Education.
  2. Goff, C. H. (2019). Experimenting with Alternative Forms of Police Patrol. In Criminal Justice in Canada (7th ed., p. 196). Nelson Education.
  3. Goff, C. H. (2019). Predictive Policing. In Criminal Justice in Canada (7th ed., p. 206). Nelson Education.
  4. Goff, C. H. (2019). Criminal Justice in Canada.
  5. Ragoli, N. (2019, May 15). 13 Major Pros and Cons of the Uniform Crime Report. Retrieved from
  6. Ragoli, N., & Barkan, S. (2019, May 15). 13 Major Pros and Cons of the Uniform Crime Report. Retrieved from
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Reflections on the Geographic Information System Used in the Criminal Justice System. (2022, October 28). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 2, 2024, from
“Reflections on the Geographic Information System Used in the Criminal Justice System.” Edubirdie, 28 Oct. 2022,
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