Geographic study aids improvement

WSU is positioning itself for global outreach and impact. Coincidentally, one of the many examples of such impact is a study of geographic positioning.
Ph.D. student Arif Akgul is completing his doctoral research on how the Spokane Police Department (SPD) uses geographic information systems (GIS) computer applications like crime mapping and analysis. His study is conducted under the WSU Division of Governmental Studies and Services (DGSS), which was created in 1965 to provide applied research services to federal, state and local government agencies active in Washington.
A lieutenant in the Turkish National Police, Akgul also hopes to apply what he learns for the benefit of the Turkish police.
Mapping crime allows analysts to identify crime hot spots, along with other trends and patterns.
Akgul’s study includes interviews of personnel, from administrators and supervisors to patrol officers and volunteers. Akgul observed workers on the job and reviewed department archives. He also administered an employee survey that garnered more than 75 percent participation.

Like many larger police departments in the United States, the SPD began implementing computerized crime mapping in the 1990s. Akgul’s study sought to analyze which employees are using the system effectively, what obstaclesare encountered, and how the department might better use the technology to support its mission of community and problem-oriented policing.

The study found that different employees have different expectations about GIS and mapping systems, depending on their particular jobs. For example, some detectives use crime maps in court cases, whereas the crime analysis unit questioned the usefulness of the maps if serial crimes or other trends aren’t evident.

Results indicate that GIS applications could be better used by the SPD and suggested that management commitment and leadership are needed to better integrate the technological change and challenge into the department.

Akgul’s recommendations for short- and long-term practical application include:

• Revising the GIS implementation process
• Assessing user needs
• Providing training to system users
• Implementing crime maps and calling for service maps in community policing
• Enhancing partnerships and networking

Other WSU researchers working with Akgul on this study are: Nicholas Lovrich Jr., DGSS; Otwin Marenin and Faith Lutze, criminal justice; and Mike Erp, DGSS, WSU Spokane.

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