Geographic Profiling and the DC area sniper shootings

By Joe Francica

It is astounding, if not bemusing, to hear how TV journalists are turning to "geographic profiling" to determine if any viable spatial pattern exists in the recent sniper killings in Montgomery County, Maryland and the surrounding Washington D.C.area. See the links in this article for more crime mapping resources.

The use of "spatial analysis" to discern the proximity, or juxtaposition on a location-by-location basis of each shooting is now getting much "air time" in the national media. Of course, at this time, there does not appear to be a pattern, at least none that can be immediately interpreted.The maps below show the locations of each of the eleven incidents to date, represented by a red diamond shape and the chronological number in which they occurred.

Montgomery County, Maryland Area

It was appalling to hear one analyst on a Sunday morning CNN program immediately suggest that the attacks appeared to be heading "south" and that we could expect to see the next incident in that direction.Isn't it amazing how some TV talking heads are becoming experts in GIS as the camera zooms in? How incredibly irresponsible and naive it was to make an interpretation on such slim evidence!

Northern Virginia and Washington D.C.Area
Click map for larger image

If you are interested in Crime Mapping or Geographic Profiling, follow the links below:


Published Tuesday, October 15th, 2002

Written by Joe Francica

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