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Comparing Police and Residents’ Perceptions of Crime in a Phoenix Neighborhood using Mental Maps in GIS


Neighborhood residents and police have distinct views about crime and safety in their community and/or beat, but comparing these perceptions can be difficult. This study uses mental maps to elicit perceptions of crime and safety from residents and police officers in the Garfield neighborhood of Phoenix. Thirty-eight residents, five police officers and one volunteer from the neighborhood patrol were asked to draw their perceptions of safe/low crime and unsafe/high crime areas on base maps. Data were then georectified, coded, and aggregated for analysis in a geographic information system. Aggregated spatial perceptions between the two groups were compared to crime data. Results showed that police perception was heavily influenced by reported crimes, while residents’ perceptions were not. By utilizing maps of resident perceptions of crime, police may have a new tool with which to pinpoint unreported or new crime activity.

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