Skip to main content

Powerful GIS Solutions for Law Enforcement – Part 2

We invited John Beck, Director Law Enforcement Solutions, Esri Inc., to have a conversation with us about some of the benefits of using GIS in law enforcement.  John gained invaluable experience implementing data-driven crime and intelligence strategies as a police officer and crime analyst in Nevada before joining Esri, where he guides the development of GIS solutions for police agencies around the world.  

In part 1 of our conversation, we discussed some of the challenges faced by law enforcement and the crime analysts that support them. We also went over how our core technology can help alleviate those challenges and assist in making better, more informed decisions.  In this second part, we get into how GIS can be leveraged in crime control strategies, and we will focus on specific solutions for tactical operations, special events and police transparency. So let’s get into it! 

What is the role of GIS in implementing crime control strategies?  

There are many different approaches to crime control, ranging from traditional, reactive measures such as increasing the police presence and strengthening criminal sanctions, to more proactive and preventive strategies that aim to address the underlying social and economic conditions that contribute to criminal behavior.  Regardless of crime control strategy, police agencies benefit in many ways from using a geospatial approach, where: 

  • desktop GIS is used for initial problem identification and dissemination of information products,  
  • those information products are consumed in web and mobile apps that are used to plan, monitor and manage response, access assignment details from the field and perform data collection, and 
  • the executive dashboards leverage the same data and information products to evaluate mission success and review Key Performance Indicators.  

Such an approach ensures that everyone involved in the strategy is working from the same sheet of music. 

And because this approach is so flexible, we see it used for a variety of common policing strategies, such as:  

  • Hot Spot Policing  
  • Intelligence-Led Policing  
  • Problem-Oriented Policing  
  • Stratified Policing  

Whichever strategy your agency is using, location is the key to understanding where and when to deploy agency resources. Every strategy should start with a spatial analysis of incidents locations using ArcGIS Pro.   

How does GIS support tactical operations?  

ArcGIS Mission is an all-in-one command and control solution for tactical mission management. ArcGIS Mission is a standalone solution with three components: 

  • Planning - allows the mission manager to create a mission and define an area of interest (AOI), map tactical resource assignments, and then share the plan with their team(s). 

  • Execution - once the mission is live, the incident commander can get real-time updates from the field, make changes on the fly, and quickly update team members. Mission also enables peer-to-peer (P2P) communications in disconnected environments. 

  • Review - all key mission data is collected and archived for after-action review, including chat messages, photos, and team member movements. 

How can GIS support special events operations?  

Events pose a lot of unique challenges for public safety agencies. Events can have a large geographic footprint with large crowds, host many temporary structures, and are susceptible to potential threats. These factors can hinder response times and result in confusion.  

ArcGIS for special events is one of our free-to-download solutions. When planning an event, a sergeant or lieutenant can create the operational plan, mark up the digital site map (with event areas, road closures, medical services, etc.) and make personnel assignments. 

During the event, the same map is used to review ongoing operations as they unfold. Law enforcement can monitor the safety and security of the event in real-time, including tracking personnel and incidents, monitor traffic and weather, monitor crowd capacity.  

This data is archived to support after-action reports and the plans can be re-used for recurring events.  

special event site map to support police operation

How do you ensure that crime data is shared with the public in an open and transparent way?  

Many agencies are already using GIS to share information with the public and connect with community stakeholders. Informational dashboards help agencies inform and engage citizens and other stakeholders through crime maps, open data applications and citizen engagement hubs.   

Esri has also developed a specialized solution to help law enforcement meet their objectives related to openness and transparency. With Police Transparency, your agency gets a ready-to-go community engagement hub that includes a five-page website. Also included are 16 ready-to-use apps that just need to be connected to your data.   

Crime summary dashboard allowing agencies to share information with the public and community stakeholders

With Police Transparency you can publish open data such as historic and current crime conditions, agency demographics and diversity data, and information about why and when use of force is used. You can also engage the community with apps to solicit public feedback, partner with community stakeholders on problem-solving efforts, and share information about ongoing police activities.

Built on ArcGIS Hub, Police Transparency includes 4 unique pages: a welcome page, community engagement, workforce diversity and crime stats

When you download Police Transparency you get:

  • A Welcome page which can include a message from the chief and an overview of your agency's mission with links to resources, FAQs, social media channels, etc.  
  • Community Engagement page with tools for the public to offer feedback, find their community officer, and report quality of life issues  
  • The Workforce Diversity page allows your department to share information about agency demographics and workforce diversity, helping the public understand the racial, ethnic, and gender makeup of your agency and how it compares to the community  
  • The Crime Stats page provides a means of sharing current and historic crime conditions through public crime maps and statistical dashboards so that community members can see where crime is occurring and how it is trending.  
  • The Use of Force page allows your agency to share data about use of force incidents including where it occurred, the type of force used, and other metrics including frequency, race, and ethnicity of those involved in use of force incidents. 

If this doesn't meet all of your requirements, you can always configure your own transparency solutions. Regina Police Service unveiled an updated community crime map that allows the public to search and filter for crimes in their neighborhoods. By providing this authoritative data to the public, Regina Police Service are able to build trust and improve awareness of crime reported within the city. 

We’ve covered a lot in this 2-part series on GIS for law enforcement, and I hope it gave you some great ideas on how ArcGIS can help your organization. Please be sure to check out the links provided throughout the series, to get more details.  Thank you for your time and attention in reading this, and if you have any questions please do not hesitate to reach out to me at 

About the Author

David Hamilton is the Public Safety Industry Manager for Esri Canada. His efforts are focused on advising customers how to use GIS technology to improve all areas of public safety, specifically (NG)9-1-1, law enforcement, fire services, emergency medical services, emergency management, and search and rescue. Prior to joining Esri Canada in 2010, David managed the GIS for E-Comm 9-1-1 in Vancouver, and worked for the RCMP at the Integrated Security Unit for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games where he managed their Common Operating Picture. Being active has been a major part of David’s personal life; soccer, track & field, skiing, cycling, hiking and now kayaking are all among his favourite activities.

Profile Photo of David Hamilton