Scraping Meth Labs with Python

For awhile in my GIS courses I have pointed to the DEA’s website that has a list of busted meth labs across the county, named the National Clandestine Laboratory Register. Finally a student has shown some interest in this, and so I spent alittle time writing a scraper in Python to grab the data. For those who would just like the data, here I have a csv file of the scraped labs that are geocoded to the city level. And here is the entire SPSS and Python script to go from the original PDF data to the finished product.

So first off, if you visit the DEA website, you will see that each state has its own PDF file (for example here is Texas) that lists all of the registered labs, with the county, city, street address, and date. To turn this into usable data, I am going to do three steps in Python:

  1. download the PDF file to my local machine using urllib python library
  2. convert that PDF to an xml file using the pdftohtml command line utility
  3. use Beautifulsoup to parse the xml file

I will illustrate each in turn and then provide the entire Python script at the end of the post.

So first, lets import the libraries we need, and also note I downloaded the pdftohtml utility and placed that location as a system path on my Windows machine. Then we need to set a folder where we will download the files to on our local machine. Finally I create the base url for our meth labs.

from bs4 import BeautifulSoup
import urllib, os

myfolder = r'C:\Users\axw161530\Dropbox\Documents\BLOG\Scrape_Methlabs\PDFs' #local folder to download stuff
base_url = r'' #online site with PDFs for meth lab seizures

Now to just download the Texas pdf file to our local machine we would simply do:

a = 'tx'
url = base_url + r'/' + a + '.pdf'
file_loc = os.path.join(myfolder,a)
urllib.urlretrieve(url,file_loc + '.pdf')

If you are following along and replaced the path in myfolder with a folder on your personal machine, you should now see the Texas PDF downloaded in that folder. Now I am going to use the command line to turn this PDF into an xml document using the os.system() function.

#Turn to xml with pdftohtml, does not need xml on end
cmd = 'pdftohtml -xml ' + file_loc + ".pdf " + file_loc

You should now see that there is an xml document to go along with the Texas file. You can check out its format using a text editor (wordpress does not seem to like me showing it here).

So basically we can use the top and the left attributes within the xml to identify what row and what column the items are in. But first, we need to read in this xml and turn it into a BeautifulSoup object.

MyFeed = open(file_loc + '.xml')
textFeed =
FeedParse = BeautifulSoup(textFeed,'xml')

Now the FeedParse item is a BeautifulSoup object that you can query. In a nutshell, we have a top level page tag, and then within that you have a bunch of text tags. Here is the function I wrote to extract that data and dump it into tuples.

#Function to parse the xml and return the line by line data I want
def ParseXML(soup_xml,state):
    data_parse = []
    page_count = 1
    pgs = soup_xml.find_all('page')
    for i in pgs:
        txt = i.find_all('text')
        order = 1
        for j in txt:
            value = j.get_text() #text
            top = j['top']
            left = j['left']
            dat_tup = (state,page_count,order,top,left,value)
            order += 1
        page_count += 1
    return data_parse

So with our Texas data, we could call ParseXML(soup_xml=FeedParse,state=a) and it will return all of the data nested in those text tags. We can just put these all together and loop over all of the states to get all of the data. Since the PDFs are not that large it works quite fast, under 3 minutes on my last run.

from bs4 import BeautifulSoup
import urllib, os

myfolder = r'C:\Users\axw161530\Dropbox\Documents\BLOG\Scrape_Methlabs\PDFs' #local folder to download stuff
base_url = r'' #online site with PDFs for meth lab seizures
state_ab = ['al','ak','az','ar','ca','co','ct','de','fl','ga','guam','hi','id','il','in','ia','ks',
state_name = ['Alabama','Alaska','Arizona','Arkansas','California','Colorado','Connecticut','Delaware','Florida','Georgia','Guam','Hawaii','Idaho','Illinois','Indiana','Iowa','Kansas',
              'Kentucky','Louisiana','Maine','Maryland','Massachusetts','Michigan','Minnesota','Mississippi','Missouri','Montana','Nebraska','Nevada','New Hampshire','New Jersey',
              'New Mexico','New York','North Carolina','North Dakota','Ohio','Oklahoma','Oregon','Pennsylvania','Rhode Island','South Carolina','South Dakota','Tennessee','Texas',
              'Utah','Vermont','Virginia','Washington','West Virginia','Wisconsin','Wyoming','Washington DC']

all_data = [] #this is the list that the tuple data will be stashed in

#Function to parse the xml and return the line by line data I want
def ParseXML(soup_xml,state):
    data_parse = []
    page_count = 1
    pgs = soup_xml.find_all('page')
    for i in pgs:
        txt = i.find_all('text')
        order = 1
        for j in txt:
            value = j.get_text() #text
            top = j['top']
            left = j['left']
            dat_tup = (state,page_count,order,top,left,value)
            order += 1
        page_count += 1
    return data_parse

#This loops over the pdfs, downloads them, turns them to xml via pdftohtml command line tool
#Then extracts the data

for a,b in zip(state_ab,state_name):
    #Download pdf
    url = base_url + r'/' + a + '.pdf'
    file_loc = os.path.join(myfolder,a)
    urllib.urlretrieve(url,file_loc + '.pdf')
    #Turn to xml with pdftohtml, does not need xml on end
    cmd = 'pdftohtml -xml ' + file_loc + ".pdf " + file_loc
    #parse with BeautifulSoup
    MyFeed = open(file_loc + '.xml')
    textFeed =
    FeedParse = BeautifulSoup(textFeed,'xml')
    #Extract the data elements
    state_data = ParseXML(soup_xml=FeedParse,state=b)
    all_data = all_data + state_data

Now to go from those sets of tuples to actually formatted data takes a bit of more work, and I used SPSS for that. See here for the full set of scripts used to download, parse and clean up the data. Basically it is alittle more complicated than just going from long to wide using the top marker for the data as some rows are off slightly. Also there is complications for long addresses being split across two lines. And finally there are just some data errors and fields being merged together. So that SPSS code solves a bunch of that. Also that includes scripts to geocode the to the city level using the Google geocoding API.

Let me know if you do any analysis of this data! I quickly made a time series map of these events via CartoDB. You can definately see some interesting patterns of DEA concentration over time, although I can’t say if that is due to them focusing on particular areas or if they are really the areas with the most prevalent Meth lab problems.

New undergrad course – Communities and Crime

This semester I am teaching a new undergrad course, communities and crime. Still a few seats left if you are a UT Dallas student and still interested. (You can also audit the course as well even if you are not a UT Dallas student.)

You can see the syllabus from the linked page, but compared to other syllabi I’ve found floating around, (see Dan O’Brien or Elizabeth Groff for two undergrad examples) I focus more on micro places than others. Some syllabi I’ve found spend basically the whole semester on social disorganization, which I think is excessive.

One experiment I am going to try for this course is to use Dallas Open crime data, and then have the students make predictions. For example, for their first assignment they are supposed to make their prediction based on social disorganization theory what neighborhood has the most crime in Dallas from this neighborhood map in Dallas. (Fusion table embedding not working in my WordPress post at the moment for some reason!)

These neighborhoods were obtained from Jane Massey, a researcher for the Dallas area Habitat for Humanity. Hence why the flood plain is its own neighborhood. It is the most reasonable source I’ve seen so far. Most generally agree (see Dallas Magazine for one example), but that data is not very tidy. See this web app to draw your own neighborhood in Dallas as well. And of course for students interested part of the discussion will be about how you define a neighborhood.

Preprint – A Quasi-Experimental Evaluation Using Roadblocks and Automatic License Plate Readers to Reduce Crime in Buffalo, NY

I have a new preprint article posted on SSRN – A Quasi-Experimental Evaluation Using Roadblocks and Automatic License Plate Readers to Reduce Crime in Buffalo, NY. This is some work I have been conducting with Scott Phillips out at SUNY Buffalo (as well as Dae-Young Kim, although he is not on this paper).

Here is the abstract:

Purpose: To evaluate the effectiveness of a hot spots policing strategy: using automated license plate readers at roadblocks.

Design: Different roadblock locations were chosen by the Buffalo Police Department every day over a two month period. We use propensity score matching to identify a set of control locations based on prior counts of crime and demographic factors before the intervention took place. We then evaluate the reductions in Part 1 crimes, calls for service, and traffic accidents at roadblock locations compared to control locations.

Findings: We find modest reductions in Part 1 violent crimes (10 over all roadblock locations and over the two months) using t-tests of mean differences. We find a 20% reduction in traffic accidents using fixed effects negative binomial regression models. Both results are sensitive to the model used though, and the fixed effects models predict increases in crimes due to the intervention.

Research Limitations: The main limitations are the quasi-experimental nature of the intervention, the short length of the intervention, and that many micro places have low baseline counts of crime.

Originality/Value: This adds to literature on hot spots policing – in particular on the use of automated license plate readers and traffic enforcement at hot spots of crime. While the results are mixed, it provides some evidence that the intervention has potential to reduce crime.

And here is one figure from the paper, showing how street units are defined, and given the intersection the road block was stationed on how we determined the treated street units:

Feedback is always welcome!

Presentation at ACJS 2016

I will be presenting at the ACJS (Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences) conference in Denver in a few days. My talk will be on some of the work I have been conducting with the Albany Police Department via the Finn Institute (Rob Worden and Sarah McLean are co-authors on the presentation). The title is Making stops smart: Predicting arrest rates from discretionary police stops at micro places in Albany, NY and here is the abstract:

Police stops are one of the most invasive, but regularly used crime control tactics by police. Similar to how focusing police resources at hot spots of crime can improve police efficiency, here we examine the spatial variation in arrest rates at micro places (street segments and intersections) in Albany, NY. Using data from over 240,000 discretionary police stops, we fit random effects logistic regression models to predict the probability of an arrest at different micro places. We show that like hot spots, there are examples of high arrest rate locations next to low arrest rate locations. Using a simulation, we show that if one displaced stops from low arrest locations to high arrest locations, one could make half as many stops but still have the same number of total arrests.

Here is a funnel chart of the arrest hit rates at micro-places across the city. You can see quite a bit of extra variation in arrest rates to attempt to explain.

I am giving this at 8 am on Thursday (see Event #185 in the program)

There will be two other presentations at the moment (Ling Wu is not going to make it), and they are:

  • Results from a victim generated crime mapping software, Zavin Nazaretian et al. – Indiana University of PA
  • Spatial analysis of aggravated assault and homicide crime scene, arrest and offender residence locations in Houston, TX, Elishewah Weisz – Sam Houston

So if you are interested in crime mapping stuff it should be a good session.

Feel free to bug me if you see me around at ACJS.


Also before I forget, my co-workers are presenting a poster on analysis of Syracuse Truce – a focused deterrence gang intervention. The posters are on Friday, so I won’t be around unfortunately. The title is Gangs, groups, networks, and deterrence: An evaluation of Syracuse Truce. (See poster #45 in the same program I linked to earlier.) Rob and Kelly will at least be manning the poster though – so you can go and bug them about the details!

Here is a picture of the reach of call-ins for one particular gang. The idea is for those who attended call ins to spread the message to other members. So this graph evaluates how well the call-ins would be expected to reach all of the members of the gang.

If you are wondering what I do for my job – yes I pretty much just make maps and graphs all day long 😉




Adding a command button to a toolbar in ArcGIS

I’m currently teaching a graduate level class in Crime Mapping using ArcGIS. I make my own tutorials from week to week, and basically sneak in generic pro-tips for using the software while students are doing other regular types of analyses. I can only subject my students to so much though – but here is one I have found useful, adding a regularly used button to a toolbar.

I use CrimeStat to generate kernel densities from point data, so as of V10 whenever I want to make a classified raster map I get this error:

V9 it used to just do this for you automatically :(.

I typically make classified raster maps simply because I think they look nicer than continous ones. My continuous ones always look fuzzy, whereas having discrete cuts you can focus attention on particular hot spot areas. It is arbitrary for sure – but that is something we need to learn to live with when making maps.

So in class I had students open ArcToolBox, navigate down the tree, and find the Calculate Statistics tool for rasters. In my personal set up though I do this enough that I added the button to my toolbar. So first, go to the file menu and in customize -> toolbars make sure you have the spatial analyst toolbar selected. (Here is a kernel density grd file to follow along with if you want.)

Now in the right hand most edge of the new spatial analyst toolbar, left click on the little downward pointing arrow and select Customize. (Sorry, my toolbar is a bit crowded!)

In the customize window that pops up, select the Commands tab. Now in this window you can select any particular command and then drag it onto any toolbar. Here I go to Data Management in the left hand categories area, and then scroll down till I find the Calculate Statistics button.

Then I left click on the Calculate Statistics row, hold down the mousebutton, and drag it to my toolbar.

Now you are done, and ArcGIS saves this button on the toolbar when making future maps. You can change the icon if you want, but there are tooltips when hovering over the icon (so even if you have multiple hammers on your toolbars it only takes a second to browse between them).

Spatial analysis course in CJ (graduate) – Spring 2016 SUNY Albany

This spring I am teaching a graduate level GIS course for the school of criminal justice on the downtown SUNY campus. There are still seats available, so feel free to sign up. Here is the page with the syllabus, and I will continue to add additional info./resources to that page.

Academics tend to focus on regression of lattice/areal data (e.g. see Matt Ingrams course over in Poli. Sci.), and in this course I tried to mix in more things I regularly encountered while working as a crime analyst that I haven’t seen coverage of in other GIS courses. For example I have a week devoted to the journey to crime and geographic offender profiling. I also have a week devoted to introducing the current most popular models used to forecast crime.

I’ve started a specific wordpress page for courses, which I will update with additional courses I prepare.

The spatial clustering of hits-vs-misses in shootings using Ripley’s K

My article, Replicating Group-Based Trajectory Models of Crime at Micro-Places in Albany, NY was recently published online first at the Journal of Quantitative Criminology (here is a pre-print version, and you can get my JQC offprint for the next few weeks).

Part of the reason I blog is to show how to replicate some of my work. I have previously shown how to generate the group based trajectory models (1,2), and here I will illustrate how to replicate some of the point pattern analysis I conducted in that paper.

A regular task for an analyst is to evaluate spatial clustering. A technique I use in that article is to use Ripley’s K statistic to evaluate clustering between different types of events, or what spatial statistics jargon calls a marked point pattern. I figured I would illustrate how to do this on some example point patterns of shootings, so analysts could replicate for other situations. The way crime data is collected and geocoded makes generating the correct reference distributions for the tests different than if the points could occur anywhere in the study region.

An example I am going to apply are shooting incidents that have marks of whether they hit the intended victim or missed. One theory in criminology is that murder is simply the extension of general violence — with the difference in aggravated assault versus murder often being happenstance. One instance this appears to be the case from my observations are shootings. It seems pure luck whether an individual gets hit or the bullets miss everyone. Here I will see if there appear to be any spatial patterning in shots fired with a victim hit. That is, we know that shootings themselves are clustered, but within those clusters of shootings are the locations of hits-and-misses further clustered or are they random?

A hypothetical process in which clustering of shooting hits can occur is if some shootings are meant to simply scare individuals vs. being targeted at people on the street. It could also occur if there are different tactics, like drive-bys vs. being on foot. This could occur if say one area had many shootings related to drug deals gone wrong, vs. another area that had gang retaliation drive by shootings. If they are non-random, the police may consider different interventions in different places – probably focusing on locations where people are more likely to be injured from the shooting. If they are random though, there is nothing special about analyzing shootings with a person hit versus shootings that missed everyone – you might as well analyze and develop strategy for all shootings.

So to start we will be using the R statistical package and the spatstat library. To follow along I made a set of fake shooting data in a csv file. So first load up R, I then change the working directory to where my csv file is located, then I read in the csv into an R data frame.


#change R directory to where your file is
MyDir <- "C:\\Users\\andrew.wheeler\\Dropbox\\Documents\\BLOG\\R_shootingVic\\R_Code"

#read in shooting data
ShootData <- read.csv("Fake_ShootingData.csv", header = TRUE)

The file subsequently has four fields, ID, X & Y coordinates, and a Vic column with 0’s and 1’s. Next to conduct the spatial analysis we are going to convert this data into an object that the spatstat library can work with. To do that we need to create a study window. Typically you would have the outline of the city, but for this analysis the window won’t matter, so here I make a window that is just slightly larger than the bounding box of the data.

#create ppp file, window does not matter for permuation test
StudyWin <- owin(xrange=c(min(ShootData$X)-0.01,max(ShootData$X)+0.01),yrange=c(min(ShootData$Y)-0.01,max(ShootData$Y)+0.01))
Shoot_ppp <- ppp(ShootData$X, ShootData$Y, window=StudyWin, marks=as.factor(ShootData$Vic), unitname = c("meter","meters"))

Traditionally when Ripley’s K was originally developed it was for points that could occur anywhere in the study region, such as the location of different tree species. Crimes are a bit different though, in that there are some areas in any city that a crime basically cannot occur (such as the middle of a lake). Also, crimes are often simply geocoded according to addresses and intersections, so this further reduces the locations where the points can be located in a crime dataset. To calculate the sample statistic for Ripley’s K one does not need to account for this, but to tell whether those patterns are random one needs to simulate the point pattern under a realistic null hypothesis. There are different ways to do the simulation, but here the simulation keeps the shooting locations fixed, but randomly assigns a shooting to be either a victim or a not with the same marginal frequencies. That is, it basically just shuffles which events are counted as a victim being hit or one in which there were no people hit. The Dixon article calls this the random relabelling approach.

Most of the spatstat functions can take a separate list of point patterns to use to simulate error bounds for different functions, so this function takes the initial point pattern, generates the permutations, and stuffs them in a list. I set the seed so the analysis can be reproduced exactly.

#generate the simulation envelopes to use in the Cross function
MarkedPerms <- function(ppp, nlist) {
  myppp_list <- c() #make empty list
  for (i in 1:nlist) {
    current_ppp <-  ppp(ppp$x, ppp$y,window=ppp$window,marks=sample(ppp$marks))  #making permutation      
    myppp_list[[i]] <- current_ppp                                               #appending perm to list

#now making a set of simulated permutations
set.seed(10) #setting seed for reproducibility
MySimEvel <- MarkedPerms(ppp=Shoot_ppp,nlist=999)

Now we have all the ingredients to conduct the analysis. Here I call the cross K function and submit my set of simulated point patterns named MySimEvel. With only 100 points in the dataset it works pretty quickly, and then we can graph the Ripley’s K function. The grey bands are the simulated K statistics, and the black line is the observed statistic. We can see the observed is always within the simulated bands, so we conclude that conditional on shooting locations, there is no clustering of shootings with a victim versus those with no one hit. Not surprising, since I just simulated random data.

#Cross Ripleys K
CrossK_Shoot <- alltypes(Shoot_ppp, fun="Kcross", envelope=TRUE, simulate=MySimEvel)
plot(CrossK_Shoot$fns[[2]], main="Cross-K Shooting Victims vs. No Victims", xlab="Meters")

I conducted this same analysis with actual shooting data in three separate cities that I have convenient access to the data. It is a hod podge of length, but City A and City B have around 100 shootings, and City C has around 500 shootings. In City A the observed line is very near the bottom, suggesting some evidence that shootings victims may be further apart than would be expected, but for most instances is within the 99% simulation band. (I can’t think of a theoretical reason why being spread apart would occur.) City B is pretty clearly within the simulation band, and City C’s observed pattern mirrors the mean of the simulation bands almost exactly. Since City C has the largest sample, I think this is pretty good evidence that shootings with a person hit are spatially random conditional on where shootings occur.

Long story short, when conducting Ripley’s K with crime data, the default way to generate the simulation envelopes for the statistics are not appropriate given how crime data is recorded. I show here one way to account for that in generating simulation envelopes.

Using KDTree’s in python to calculate neighbor counts

For a few different projects I’ve had to take a set of crime data and calculate the number of events nearby. It is a regular geospatial task, counting events in a particular buffer, but one that can be quite cumbersome if you have quite a few points to cross-reference. For one project I needed to calculate this for 4,500 street segments and intersections against a set of over 100,000 crime incidents. While this is not big data, if you go the brute force route and simply calculate all pair-wise distances, this results in 450 million comparisons. Since all I wanted was the number of counts within a particular distance buffer, KDTree’s offer a much more efficient search solution.

Here I give an example in Python using numpy and the nearest neighbor algorithms available in SciPy. This example is calculating the number of shootings in DC within 1 kilometer of schools. The shooting data is sensor data via ShotSpotter, and is publicly available at the new open data site. The school data I calculated the centroids based on school area polygons, available from the legacy DC data site. This particular example was motivated by this Urban Institute post.

There are around 170 schools and under 40,000 total shootings, so this would not be a big issue to calculate all the pairwise distances. It is a simple and quick example though. Here I have the IPython notebook and CSV files are available to download (using Wakari – the Anaconda free service).

So first we will just import the spatial data into numpy arrays. Note each file has the coordinates in projected meters.

import numpy as np
#getting schools and shootings from CSV files
schools = np.genfromtxt('DC_Schools.csv', delimiter=",", skip_header=1)
shootings = np.genfromtxt('ShotSpotter.csv', delimiter=",", skip_header=1, usecols=(4,5))

Next we can import the KDTree function, and then supply it with the two spatial coordinates for the shootings. While this is a relatively small file, even for my example larger set of crime data with over 100,000 incidents building the tree was really fast, less than a minute.

#making KDTree, and then searching within 1 kilometer of school
from sklearn.neighbors import KDTree
shoot_tree = KDTree(shootings)

Finally you can then search within a particular radius. You can either search one location at a time, but here I do a batch search and count the number of shootings that are within 1,000 meters from each school. Again this is a small example, but even with my 4,500 locations against 100,000 crimes it was very fast. (Whereas my initial SPSS code to do all 450 million pairwise combinations was taking all night.)


Which produces an array of the counts for each of the schools:

array([1168,  179, 2384,  686,  583, 1475,  239, 1890, 2070,  990,   74,
        492,   10,  226, 2057, 1813, 1137,  785,  742, 1893, 4650, 1910,
          0,  926, 2380,  818, 2868, 1230,    0, 3230, 1103, 2253, 4531,
       1548,    0,    0,    0, 1002, 1912,    0, 1543,    0,  580,    4,
       1224,  843,  212,  591,    0,    0, 1127, 4520, 2283, 1413, 3255,
        926,  972,  435, 2734,    0, 2828,  724,  796,    1, 2016, 2540,
        369, 1903, 2216, 1697,  155, 2337,  496,  258,  900, 2278, 3123,
        794, 2312,  636, 1663,    0, 4896,  604, 1141,    7,    0, 1803,
          2,  283,  270, 1395, 2087, 3414,  143,  238,  517,  238, 2017,
       2857, 1100, 2575,  179,  876, 2175,  450, 5230, 2441,   10, 2547,
        202, 2659, 4006, 2514,  923,    6, 1481,    0, 2415, 2058, 2309,
          3, 1132,    0, 1363, 4701,  158,  410, 2884,  979, 2053, 1120,
       2048, 2750,  632, 1492, 1670,  242,  131,  863, 1246, 1361,  843,
       3567, 1311,  107, 1501,    0, 2176,  296,  803,    0, 1301,  719,
         97, 2312,  150,  475,  764, 2078,  912, 2943, 1453,  178,  177,
        389,  244,  874,  576,  699,  295,  843,  274])

And that is it! Quite simple.

The ShotSpotter data is interesting, with quite a few oddities that are worth exploring. I recently wrote a chapter on SPSS’s geospatial tools for an upcoming book on advanced SPSS features, providing a predictive police example predicting weekly shootings using the new geospatial temporal modelling tool. The book is edited by Keith McCormick and Jesus Salcedo, and I will write a blog post whenever it comes out highlighting what the chapter goes over.

Presentation at IACA 2015: An Exploratory Network Analysis of Hot People and Places

My work was accepted at the 2015 International Association of Crime Analysts Conference, so I will be going to Denver this fall to present. These are "NIJ Research Track" presentations, but basically took the place of the old MAPS conference presentations. So on Thursday at 2:30 (Panel 9) I will be presenting. The title of the presentation is An Exploratory Network Analysis of Hot People and Places, and below is the abstract for the talk:

Intelligence led policing practices focus on chronic offenders and hot spots of crime. I examine the connections between these hot people and hot places by considering micro places (street segments and intersections) and people as nodes in an interconnected network. I focus on whether hot people tend to have a finite set of locations they congregate, and whether hot places have unique profiles of chronic offenders. The end goal is to identify if observed patterns can help police combine targeted enforcement of hot people and hot places in one overarching strategy.

This is still a work in progress, but here is a quick preview. This graph is a random sample of offender footprints in each panel.

Also during this slot there are two other presentations, below is their info:

Title: Offender Based Investigations: A Paradigm Shift in Policing, Author: Chief James W. Buie, Gaston County Police

Abstract: Routine activity theory and research conducted by Wiles, P & Costello, A. (2000) ‘The Road to Nowhere’ prove criminals 1) commit crimes where comfortable and 2) are very likely to re-offend. Therefore it makes sense to elevate the importance of offender locations in relation to crimes. Our focus on the offender is called Offender Based Investigations (OBI). We’re using GIS to plot not only crimes but criminals as well. Our experience over the past seven years of utilizing OBI has proven that mapping offenders plays a critical role in solving crimes.

Title: A Spatial Network Analysis of Gangs Author: Davin Hall, Crime Analysis Specialist for the Greensboro PD

Abstract: Gangs are characterized by the associations between members and the territory that members operate in. Many representations of gang territory and gang networks are separate from one another; a map shows the territory while a network map shows linkages between individuals. This presentation demonstrates the combination of territory and network within a single map, for both gangs and gang members. This analysis shows law enforcement a clearer picture of the complex relationships that occur between and within gangs.

You can see the full agenda here. I really enjoyed the presentations last year at Seattle, and this year looks great as well. If you want any more info. on my particular work feel free to send me an email, or if you want to get together at Denver this fall.

Favorite maps and graphs in historical criminology

I was reading Charles Booth’s Life and Labour of the People in London (available entirely at Google books) and stumbled across this gem of a connected dot plot (between pages 18-19, maybe it came as a fold out in the book?)

(You will also get a surprise of the hand of the scanner in the page prior!) This reminded me I wanted to make a collection of my favorite historical examples of maps and graphs for criminology and criminal justice. If you read through Calvin Schmid’s Handbook of Graphical Presentation (available for free at the internet archive) it was a royal pain to create such statistical graphics by hand before computers. It makes you appreciate the effort all that much more, and many of the good ones will rival the quality of any graphic you can make on the computer.

Calvin Schmid himself has some of my favorite example maps. See for instance this gem from Urban Crime Areas: Part II (American Sociological Review, 1960):

The most obvious source of great historical maps in criminology though is from Shaw and McKay’s Juvenile Delinquency in Urban Areas. It was filled with incredible graphs and maps throughout. Here are just a few examples. (These shots are taken from the second edition in 1969, but they are all from the first part of the book, so were likely in the 1942 edition):

Dot maps

Aggregated to grid cells

The concentric zonal model

And they even have some binned scatterplots to ease in calculating linear regression equations

Going back further, Friendly in A.-M. Guerry’s moral statistics of France: Challenges for multivariable spatial analysis has some examples of Guerry’s maps and graphs. Besides choropleth maps, Guerry has one of the first examples of a ranked bumps chart (as later coined by Edward Tufte) of the relative rankings of the counts of crime at different ages (1833):

I don’t have access to any of Quetelet’s historical maps, but Cook and Wainer in A century and a half of moral statistics in the United Kingdom: Variations on Joseph Fletcher’s thematic maps have examples of Joseph Fletcher’s choropleth maps (as of 1849):

Going to more recent mapping examples, the Brantingham’s most notable I suspect is their crime pattern nodes and paths diagram, but my favorites are the ascii glyph contour maps in Crime seen through a cone of resolution (1976):

The earliest example of a journey-to-crime map I am aware of is Capone and Nichols Urban structure and criminal mobility (1976) (I wouldn’t be surprised though if there are earlier examples)

Besides maps, one other famous criminology graphic that came to mind was the age-crime curve. This is from Age and the Explanation of Crime (Hirschi and Gottfredson, 1983) (pdf here). This I presume was made with the computer – although I imagine it was still a pain in the butt to do it in 1983 compared to now! Andresen et al.’s reader Classics in Environmental Criminology in the Quetelet chapter has an age crime curve recreated in it (1842), but I will see if I can find an original scan of the image.

I will admit I have not read Wolfgang’s work, but I imagine he had graphs of the empirical cumulative distribution of crime offenses somewhere in Delinquency in a Birth Cohort. But William Spelman has many great examples of them for both people and places. Here is one superimposing the two from Criminal Careers of Public Places (1995):

Michael Maltz has spent much work on advocating for visual presentation as well. Here is an example from his chapter, Look Before You Analyze: Visualizing Data in Criminal Justice (pdf here) of a 2.5d kernel density estimate. Maltz discussed this in an earlier publication, Visualizing Homicide: A Research Note (1998), but the image from the book chapter is nicer.

Here is an album with all of the images in this post. I will continue to update this post and album with more maps and graphs from historical work in criminology as I find them. I have a few examples in mind — I plan on adding a multivariate scatterplot in Don Newman’s Defensible Space, and I think Sampson’s work in Great American City deserves to be mentioned as well, because he follows in much of the same tradition as Shaw and McKay and presents many simple maps and graphs to illustrate the patterns. I would also like to find the earliest network sociogram of crime relationships. Maltz’s book chapter has a few examples, and Papachristo’s historical work on Al Capone should be mentioned as well (I thought I remembered some nicer network graphs though in Papachristos’s book chapter in the Morselli reader).

Let me know if there are any that I am missing or that you think should be added to the list!