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September 24, 2014
WVU Professor Publishes Book Exploring the Role of Geospatial Technologies in Investigating Crime and Providing Justice

MORGANTOWN, W.Va., Sept. 22, 2014—Law enforcement agencies and forensic investigators have used geospatial data to profile serial offenders, track suspects and guide crime reduction efforts.

Citizen groups have fought successfully against environmental discrimination and have engaged in class-action lawsuits, strengthened by the collection, analysis and presentation of geospatial data.

Legal experts have used the technology in the courtroom, and in recent years, the technologies’ applications have expanded.
Gregory Elmes, professor of geography at West Virginia University, has co-edited “Forensic GIS: The Role of Geospatial Technologies for Investigating Crime and Providing Evidence,” a book of case studies written for researchers, practitioners and students.

“Most of (society’s) data today contains locational information. Eighty percent of all of our data contains some sort of spatial or locational content,” Elmes said.

“What we need to do, particularly in (the field of) geography, is to realize the power of locationally addressed data, and through our analytical and mapping capabilities.”

The book discusses a wide range of technologies and applications for geographic, or location-based, information systems in forensic science, and serves as a review of geospatial technology—the collecting, storing, processing and examining of geographic information—as it applies to criminal justice.

One chapter, “Mapping and the Use of Force in Police Forces,” takes a deep look into the motives behind police militarization. The topic is particularly timely following the August shooting death of an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Missouri and the escalating tension surrounding protests and police force response.

“The level of police militarization is of concern,” Elmes said. “This particular chapter struck me as very interesting. This is something you don’t normally think of in mapping crime, but it does fall within its scope.”

Other case studies include:

  • “Concepts, Principles and Definitions-Geospatial Technologies in the Courtroom,”
  • “State Registration of Sex Offenders: Public Notification, Web Mapping & Spatial Issues,”
  • “The SDIK Police Model: How to Make the Invisible Visible” and
  • “Delineating Legal Forest Boundaries to Combat Illegal Forest Encroachments: A Case Study in Murree Forest.”

Elmes has been at WVU since 1979 and co-director of the West Virginia State GIS Technical Center since 1995.
He has more than 30 years of experience in geographical information systems and the application of GIS techniques to societal issues such as public health, industries, archeology and public safety.

For more information, contact Gregory Elmes at (304) 293-4685 or

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