February’s Lunch Series on GIS, Crime Analysis, and Risk Terrain Modeling, featuring Dr. Joel Caplan, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice and Deputy Director of the Center on Public Security at Rutgers University.
A consultant for agencies throughout the United States and internationally on matters of public safety and national security, Dr. Caplan provided an engaging presentation to the mixed audience of Penn graduate students and Philadelphia area practitioners, and discussed his work in the development of Risk Terrain Modeling, which employs GIS and spatial analysis in evaluating illegal behavior, crime patterns, and spatial risks.
Dr. Caplan stressed the behavior settings for crime and the environmental context of low- versus high-risk crime neighborhoods, as well as the importance of spatial influence in risk terrain modeling. “A sidewalk or bush might be considered a benign feature,” suggested Dr. Caplan, but “sidewalks surrounded by bushes might be perceived as potentially risky areas.” He went on to discuss environmental features that created spaces in which criminals feel comfortable and can hide. He shared several hot-spot maps with the audience, pointing out that while hot-spot mapping has proven accurate, to an extent, there’s an inherent assumption that crime won’t move from where it’s taken place in the past, even after police intervene. What happens when police are successful? Why does repeat offending happen even when cops have patrolled the same hot spots for decades? These are the questions, said Dr. Caplan, which spatial diagnoses need to answer.