Exploring the ethical, organisational and technological challenges of crime mapping: a critical approach to urban safety technologies

  • Gemma Galdon Clavell
Original Paper


Technology is pervasive in current police practices, and has been for a long time. From CCTV to crime mapping, databases, biometrics, predictive analytics, open source intelligence, applications and a myriad of other technological solutions take centre stage in urban safety management. But before efficient use of these applications can be made, it is necessary to confront a series of challenges relating to the organizational structures that will be used to manage them, to their technical capacities and expectations, and to weigh up the positive and negative external factors at play at the intersection between technology, society and urban management. The paper contributes to this discussion by looking into the dynamics that drive technological uptake in the field of urban safety, the different theories underpinning the relationship between crime and space, and the history and technological characteristics of Geographic Information Systems to later present specific case studies and practical examples of crime mapping systems. Finally, addressing matters related to organisational constraints, technological possibilities and societal impact from a critical point of view, the paper lays out guidelines to ensure that using technology to manage urban safety does not result in increased victimisation, inequalities or inefficiency. Taking one of the longest established technology used in police practice, crime mapping, and using a multidisciplinary, critical approach to escape technological solutionism and bridge the gap between the academic literature (STS, urban sociology, environmental criminology) and policy needs and recommendations, this paper sends a cautionary tale to those hoping that technology alone can solve complex urban and social problems.


Ethics of technology Policing Policy Mapping 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Eticas Research and ConsultingBarcelonaSpain

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