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Bar News - January 18, 2017

Book Review: Most Can Probably Skip Forensic GIS Text Book


Forensic GIS: The Role of Geospatial Technologies for Investigating Crime and Providing Evidence
Edited by Gregory A. Elmes, George Roedl, and Jamison Conley
Springer (2014)
Hardcover, 310 pages

Forensic GIS is not as relevant to daily practice as some of the other books I have reviewed in these pages, but it does give a detailed and scholarly look at how geospatial information is and can be used in criminal investigations and trials.

The book is divided into 13 chapters that are actually scholarly papers on individual subjects and not a coherent presentation of the subject. The first four papers deal with overviews and basic concepts; the remaining nine are papers on case studies of specific uses.

In laymanís terms, the book is about how Google Earth and other mapping applications can be combined with other data sources to analyze crime and present evidence in criminal trials. For instance, there is a chapter on how the authors of one of the papers took data from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg NC Tax Assessors Office and combined it with maps to show the geographic locations and patterns of foreclosures in the wake of the 2008 crash. Another paper discusses how the authors used liquor law citation data from the University of Wisconsin and LaCrosse Police Department for September and October (Octoberfest) for the years 2008-2012 and maps to address serious alcohol incidents.

When I review a book, I typically ask two questions: Who of my colleagues should take time from their overpacked schedules to read this? Why? This book will have a limited audience. Because the subject is narrowed to criminal topics, those most likely to be interested will be those of you who defend or prosecute criminal cases. The Attorney Generalís Office, the US Attorneyís office, some State Bureaus, and large law firms are most likely to have either the interest and/or the resources to be able to put the concepts to effective use. For those colleagues, I recommend this book as a source of ideas and a resource to prepare for trial or to analyze big data for trends and patterns. An attorney who is preparing for a profiling defense or an administrative body looking to identify crime trends would likely find this tome worthwhile. For those of us who are not so inclined, itís a tough read.

If you are interested in GPS, I recommend Pinpoint by Greg Milner. It is a much more interesting and accessible book that explains how the global positioning system is impacting and changing our livesÖ and itís much more relevant to those of us who are not trying to determine where in the state the most alcohol-related crimes are committed.

Eric Cook

Eric Cook is an attorney who lives in Portsmouth and has practiced in New Hampshire since 1998.

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