Community engagement of local space in crime mapping and policing of informal settlements : a study of Cato Crest informal settlement.
In any country where there are informal settlements, crime prevention and combat is, to a great extent, determined by the availability of reliable information about crime and about the physical environment in which it occurs. Of equal importance in reducing crime is accurate reporting on the behalf of the public and accurate mapping of crime incidences on the part of the police. Informality makes such information gathering, reporting and mapping extremely challenging. Street level geocoding match rates are lower in informal settlements areas compared to formal urban areas, due to the fact that these areas are unplanned without any road networks or proper address points. To determine the success or otherwise of measures taken to control crime in informal settlements, it is necessary for a system to be in operation whereby crime can be geocoded to a specific location. The integration of community local knowledge with Geographic Information Systems can help populate urban-based geospatial databases for informal settlement crime mapping, and a mental mapping exercise can contribute by the identification of landmarks which can be geocoded. The aim of this research was to establish how community understandings and constructions of their local geography can contribute to ‘official’ police crime mapping and, consequently, to the improvement of policing in informal settlements. In order to achieve this research objective, community ‘mind maps’ were explored through focus groups and these were correlated with police geocoding and mapping systems. The aim here was to explore whether and how these systems can work together in dealing more effectively with crime and in enhancing police-community relations in informal settlement areas. A key finding of this research was that, coming together or integration between community generated mapping information and conventional GIS methodologies, has the potential to completely transform the way in which informal settlements crimes are mapped.