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Technology joins WA fight against violent crime

By Alicia Kouparitsas26 Feb 2013

Cutting-edge mapping technology used to take on violent offenders in the US could help Western Australia reduce its own incidences of violent crime, according to a visiting international crime authority.

Mike King, a law enforcement specialist with global Geographic Information System (GIS) technology giant Esri, has been invited to Perth this week to advise WA police, investigators and emergency services personnel.

The 28-year police veteran and former criminal profiler’s visit comes as law and order takes centre stage in the WA election campaign, with the Barnett Government promising to introduce mandatory prison sentences for rape and violent home invasions.

Mr King said, like their US counterparts, WA law enforcers could use a ‘new generation’ of sophisticated mapping technology to catch violent offenders.

“Whether it’s driving patterns, the locations of victims' bodies, or a suspect’s whereabouts - everything has a location,” Mr King said.

“By themselves these locations may not reveal much, however if you integrate and map this data using GIS technology you can start to see connections that shed new light on a crime.

“Viewing information in this way enables investigators to draw links between the geography of crimes, killers and victims – and link them to behaviour patterns, offender backgrounds and other historical data.

“This provides police commanders with authoritative, actionable intelligence that can be used to accurately track criminal activities – as well as valuable circumstantial evidence that can assist in arrests and convictions.

GIS technology is already used by many of the world’s leading law enforcement agencies – including the New York and Los Angeles Police Departments – to solve and even prevent violent crimes.

“There is no reason why the same approach would not work to address the issues here in Western Australia.”

While in Perth, Mr King will also appear at the Directions 2013 seminar, a GIS technology showcase hosted by Esri Australia, the market leader in Australia’s $2.1 billion spatial industry.

Having already met with law enforcement and emergency services personnel in South Australia and the Northern Territory, Mr King said Australia should consider using GIS technology to construct a national criminal database, as has been achieved in the US.

“Too often different policing agencies have distinct jurisdictions in which they collect and manage crime-related data,” Mr King said.

“Offenders certainly aren't concerned with state boundaries however and an agency's ability to know of similar crimes in adjacent states or disciplines is limited if it can’t easily draw on intelligence and data beyond these borders.

“In the US, where we have more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies, we face similar challenges and have found that the more we share intelligence, the more successful we are in combating criminal activity.

“Relevant crime-related information can be instantly accessed via a digital map, where it can be analysed and translated into actionable intelligence by various agencies.

“This way it doesn't matter if a suspect crosses borders because police across the nation have access to the same up-to-date picture of a criminal’s activities and history, and can quickly determine how best to respond.

“Because there are fewer jurisdictional units here in Australia, the task of using GIS technology to bring the country’s data together in a more usable way is certainly within reach.”

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