A long-running question is what we can do to feel, and be safer on the streets in our daily lives. Crime fears are real, but luckily, so are the opportunities to address and overcome them, with GIS and GPS systems playing a vital role. Although not yet capable of preventing violence, GIS systems can at least help us to escape it.
Various Apps combine complex GIS analysis with GPS location systems to identify and map hot pockets of criminal activity. One example would be an app that connects college communities with local police forces to prevent and deter campus crimes. This same sense of safety and community could be expanded to the entire world, one city at a time.
GIS maps can be utilized to envision a simple, intuitive way to let people know where they might encounter threats in real-time, and then send them directions to navigate around the hotspot areas, or "red zones", creating a way for people to continue to live their lives with a greatly reduced chance of becoming a statistic.
With this type of app you can view or report geo-tagged shootings, assaults, thefts and accidents in near real-time, and navigate away from danger with a single tap.
If you don't have time to look at the map, you can still rely on turn by turn voice navigation to rescue you from trouble!
Of course mapping high crime areas isn't revolutionary. For decades police forces have published online maps of criminal activity for their communities, and many have integrated crowd-sourced self-reported data. In fact, the contribution GIS was making to law enforcement was a hot topic for Directions back in 2010. But what is revolutionary is the accuracy and speed with which incidents can now be validated, mapped and relayed to app users.
Every app user could have the ability to anonymously upload photos and videos of a crime scene for the entire world to see; other users can then comment, creating a live news feed for any event, anywhere, at any time, from a first-person perspective.
Behind the scenes, this user-submitted data is validated through lightning-fast compilation and analysis of data from a variety of other sources, including police feeds and news outlets. Proprietary algorithms determine location validity from the GPS in the user's device, then geocode, query and geo-fence the area to provide the user with a street route away from or around the danger.
With this information at users’ fingertips, through having the highest quality data available anywhere, this will help to save lives. Traditionally, crime maps were more historical; better for choosing a neighborhood in which to purchase a home or visit a business, than for avoiding a terror attack that could pop up in even the best of neighborhoods at any hour. It's that element that is revolutionizing public safety.
Even more innovation is on the way. The next big thing for GIS crime mapping and prevention is a more active emergency alerting system.
Active alerting is critical, especially the ability to take advantage of all the geo-fencing technology available. GIS maps are very intuitive, but what some people really want is answers, which might not necessarily be on the map. so if I send you a text and say 'stay away from here,' sometimes that's more efficient than seeing a map that shows you where to avoid.
This functionality means that even if you're busy doing something else, and not monitoring your surroundings, the app could still let you know when danger approaches—and help you get away from it.
Many countries are looking to expand this concept in their areas, and GIS is definitely still the technology of the future with its incredible versatility and variety of functions.
A crime mapping app would be particularly successful in densely populated urban areas; areas where a number of active crime feeds already exist to provide data for the maps, and where users are the most savvy about avoiding potential threats. Rural use is also growing. Accessing data sources such as news outlets and police feeds is more challenging in rural areas, but user-submitted data is often more valuable in the case of a spontaneous emergency, this means the app would maintain its value even in the most isolated areas.
Predictive analysis could well be the possible future of public safety and a key role of GIS systems in years to come. We could be close to a day when the fantasy of Minority Report becomes our reality. Already, companies like Hitachi claim to be able to predict criminal hot spots by collating various indicators with location; for example, using geotagged social media comments containing drug slang in conjunction with the location of schools to determine that a drug-related crime is about to take place in that location.
For now, we'll have to make do with what we have—a real-time view of crime and a quick escape route, with.
Stay safe, wherever you may roam.