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Mapmaker Helps Police with Inquiries

September 25, 2000
Weekly update


Computerized mapping from Ordnance Survey in the UK is helping Britain's police forces. The national mapmaker provides powerful digital information for frontline crime fighting and behind-the-scenes planning. Increasing numbers of command and control centers are being equipped with computer-based geographical information systems (GIS) containing Ordnance Survey's most detailed digital map data.

Controllers can speed up their response to 999 calls by pinpointing incidents more quickly and accurately. As details are taken and fed into a GIS, the location is identified and instructions issued to officers even before the call is over. Relevant addresses can be located through large-scale Land-Line data and the postal address dataset ADDRESS-POINT. Land-Line is also proving its worth by helping officers carry out surveillance and reconnaissance of suspected crime dens more safely. Because it shows such precise detail as the shapes of buildings, their surrounding walls, and approaches, key decisions can be made before officers are deployed on the ground, thus helping to reduce the risk of cover being blown. To help them track criminals already on the run, several forces have equipped their helicopters with seamless navigation systems containing Land-Line and 1:50,000 Scale Colour Raster data. Their built-in detail allows an airborne crew to relay far more accurate instructions to officers on the ground. Instead of traditional directions such as “the suspect’s vehicle has turned left opposite a pub car park,” the message becomes “the suspect’s vehicle has turned left opposite the Red Lion pub car park into Milton Street and is now heading due west.” Linked to a video camera or other tracking device, the system can be a compelling source of evidence for any subsequent criminal trial.

Digital mapping is even helping officers stay one step ahead of criminals by predicting where and when future crime might take place. Experience has shown that many criminals are creatures of habit who tend to operate in the same way and in the same areas time after time. Hampshire police are using a system called PROphecy, which displays up-to-date crime patterns on Ordnance Survey mapping from street level right down to individual buildings. This helps to build up a picture of likely trouble spots, ideal for operations against, for example, joyriders, drug dealers, car thieves and burglars.