My Internship: Mapping Crime

By Melinda Morang

Crime affects people’s physical and mental health, and here at PRC-MI, we’d like to know if we can keep people safe and healthy by reducing or preventing crime. The Flint Police Department has been kind enough to share their crime incident records with us, and we now have a huge dataset with detailed information about the crime incidents that have occurred in Flint from 2005 to 2011.

Where does crime occur? Where are the crime hotspots? Are crime patterns predictable? Does a single crime occurrence in a particular location lead to more crime nearby within a certain period of time? Can we use existing crime data to predict future crime locations? This is what we’d like to find out. However, before we can do that, we need to put the existing crime data on the map. To do that, we use the process of geocoding.

What is geocoding?

Geocoding is taking a written address, like 100 Main Street, and actually placing on a map. It’s what Google Maps does when you type an address into the search bar, and it’s what the ArcGIS software can do with a huge table of addresses. I used the ArcGIS software to geocode the crime data locations, and the results were maps with tens of thousands of points showing the location of each crime incident in Flint between 2005 and 2011.

This summer, as a PRC-MI intern, I cleaned, processed, geocoded, and analyzed Flint’s crime data in preparation for more detailed statistical analysis that will (hopefully) allow us to answer some interesting questions about predicting future crime locations. Stay tuned over the next couple of months for updates on this project.

Can you pick out the hotspots?

Check out the map below showing the density of assault offenses in Flint from 2005-2011:

Melinda Morang just completed a dual master’s degree in Urban Planning and Natural Resources & Environment at the University of Michigan. This August, after her brief stint at the Prevention Research Center of Michigan, she will be moving to Redlands, CA to work as a product engineer for ESRI, the company that makes the ArcGIS software. In her spare time, Melinda enjoys playing the bassoon, bird-watching, and reading and watching good fiction.