Developing a Web-based Citizen-oriented Geographic Information System (GIS) for Mapping and Analysis of Urban Crimes

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Assistant professor of remote sensing and GIS, Faculty of Geography, University of Tehran, Tehran

2 MA in remote sensing and GIS, Faculty of Geography, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran

3 MA in remote sensing and GIS, Science and Research Branch, Islamic Azad University, Tehran, Iran


Crime is one of the important issues in societies, especially in large cities. The crime control and prevention require the use of citizen’s potentials and capacity in the form of participatory policy making. Accordingly, a combination of the citizens’ participation and the police activities with the objective of solving the crime problem and establishing security in the society would be effective. Using Web GIS and citizen-based information systems can facilitate citizens’ participation in crime mapping, analysis, decision making and management for the purpose of crime control and prevention. These systems enable citizens to have active roles in crimes monitoring and reporting. Development of technologies like the smart phones capable of connecting to the internet and equipped with camera and GPS in which the spatial data are automatically produced, will provide a huge volume of criminal spatial data. The people as intelligent and location-aware sensors, using these technologies and through internet access can provide the police centers with update information. Analysis of the information by GIS can play an important role to connect the community members to police. In this study, a Web GIS-based participatory crime monitoring system was designed and developed. This system integrates three scientific fields including: Web GIS, criminology and citizens participation. It provides a set of tools including crime reporting, mapping, as well as spatial analyses such as nearest distance to police stations and cars, and classification of crimes according to the police districts.
The main objective of the present study is the spatial-temporal monitoring of crimes through citizen-oriented crime recording system for all the users of this information including the public and private organizations pertinent to the urban crime problem. A set of tools were used in this system including, crimes mapping by citizens and analyzing reported crimes by police departments. For convenient reporting of the geospatial data of crimes, the Google Maps service was used so that the users can determine and mark the exact locations of crime commitments. Google Maps API allows developers to integrate Google Maps into their websites freely. The database used in this system is Microsoft SQL Server as one of the most robust databases in temporal - spatial data domain. Any citizen can mark the crime location on the Google Map and report the relevant descriptive information in the system. In addition to the reporting and viewing tools, a set of functionalities for the analysis of the reported crime data have been implemented in the system, including the nearest police station analysis, determining the number of crimes according to police districts, and determining crime risk areas, etc. 
Results and discussion
The proposed system can be used as a suitable and convenient tool for citizen-based crime monitoring. Interaction of the people with the city space in daily life makes them to gather information on the crimes and provide the authorities with such information more rapidly and with greater awareness than the governmental forces. This system increases the citizens’ sense of responsibility and their interaction with police. Such a system can provide appropriate tool for citizens in the direction of crime prevention and control. Given that the location-based technologies such as GPS and maps are used in smart phones for people and their everyday life, this system provides a good cooperation between citizens and law enforcement agencies in order to monitor, analyze, control and prevent criminal activities. However, the system application is accompanied by limitations and challenges including the cultural issues, lack of familiarity with the GIS and citizen-based web-GIS tools, the validity of the citizens’ data as well as management of such a huge volume of data. Proper training of the citizens, publicity and making the culture for citizen engagement in policing can provide the ground for higher efficiency and better effectiveness of these systems.
Citizens are the key players in crime monitoring and they can act as active, reasoner, smart, responsible, conscious, distributed, and interactive sensors to carefully monitor the crimes in their local area and provide detailed geographic information to the police. The use of web-based GIS tools facilitates the participation of citizens in collecting and analyzing crime data in order to prevent and control crimes. The relevant police organizations can make use of them to involve the community members in the crime mapping processes. Through such a process, interested parties can have an active role from the initial stages right up to the final stage of urban crime management.
In this study, a web-based GIS crime monitoring system (VGI-based system) was designed and implemented. The system provides citizens with the necessary tools for reporting crimes and allows the police to analyze this information. Citizens can report information about various crimes through the system, along with photos, videos, text, etc., and they can play an important role in monitoring the crimes in the city.
As the future work, this study suggests that the systems use additional GIS analysis functions and address more complex crime analyses. Also, other GIS-based technologies, including SDSS (Spatial Decision Support System), could be integrated with these systems. To improve system performance, we need to conduct an empirical study of usability testing for the proposed system.
Given the fact that information is produced by ordinary and unfamiliar citizens via the VGI system, it is necessary to discuss the validation of these data and improve the quality of the citizen-generated crime data. One of the important points for the more efficient use of these systems is the increase in the citizen engagement. In this regard, we suggest that conducting educational and promotional programs can play a key role in encouraging citizens in the participatory crime mapping.


Main Subjects

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Volume 50, Issue 1
April 2018
Pages 233-247
  • Receive Date: 11 October 2017
  • Revise Date: 31 December 2017
  • Accept Date: 31 December 2017
  • First Publish Date: 21 March 2018