Mapping Intimate Assault

Erin Lane, Police Foundation

Since the advent of desktop-based Geographic Information System (GIS) software, the application of GIS analysis to understanding and responding to a variety of crime and public safety problems has expanded. Researchers as well as practitioners have found GIS an invaluable tool for spatially examining crime by place. Researchers have used GIS to measure the effect of police response on crime hot spots, and police managers have adopted GIS as a means for understanding and responding to crime in their jurisdictions. GIS has, however, rarely been used as a tool for examining domestic violence. The paucity of GIS applications to the study of domestic violence is easy to understand. Researchers and practitioners have been disinclined to spatially analyze domestic violence because it is not considered a crime in which patterns are driven by place and environmental characteristics such as street lighting, type of road, or even neighborhood crime levels. Prior literature has stressed that domestic violence permeates society irrespective of type of neighborhood, type of housing, socioeconomic status, and the absence or presence of other crime In a report from the 1992 National Crime Victimization Survey, BJS authors Ronet Bachman and Linda Saltzman note that "Women of all races and Hispanic and non-Hispanic women were about equally vulnerable to violence by an intimate (BJS, 1995). However, more recent findings from the NCVS show that the rate of non-lethal domestic victimization for white women is 8.2, for black women is 11.1, and for other races is 4.1; and the rate of female victimization for households making less than $7,500 is 20.3 and for households making over $75,000 is 3.3 (BJS, 2001). This suggests that there are differences in the distribution of domestic violence across race and class leading to the question of what characteristics of people or places drive these differences. If these differences do exist, then spatial analysis may be a useful tool for identifying them. This analysis is part of a broader project that examined one city's inter-agency repose to intimate violence (see Farrell et al., 2002). The analysis presented here involves mapping the intimate assaults reported to the city police in a two-year period. Census block group boundaries are used as a proxy for neighborhood boundaries. The demographic data associated with each block group were joined to the block group boundaries, allowing an examination of police response by neighborhood characteristics such as wealth, and race. The census data were provided by ESRI.

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Updated 05/20/2006