Sunday, November 2, 2008


Dr. Nicolas A. Valcik - Associate Director, Office of Strategic Planning and Analysis/Clinical Assistant Professor in the Program or Public Affairs - The University of Texas at Dallas

Dr. Patricia Huesca-Dorantes - Crime Analyst - City of Richardson Police Department


With the introduction of new technology comes the advance of tools that can be used for security and operational intelligence. One such tool developed by ESRI is Geospatial Information Systems (GISÓ). GIS has capabilities that allow users to link information with graphical output more capable and accurate than software systems were in the past. The new technology allows police, security, safety and other administrative personnel to operate with a vast amount of information than has previously been unavailable for operational use. New applications are developed every day to comply with government requirements or to enhance analyses using GIS based technologies. This article in particular will introduce basic concepts for potential and applied uses of GIS with regard to security for both municipal and higher education institutions’ personnel.

Table 1. GIS Functionality for Security at Municipalities and Universities

Crime Statistics

Intelligence Gathering

Use in Times of Natural Disasters

Link GIS Information to a Database

Inventory Critical Infrastructure

Linking Security Cameras to GIS

Protection of Critical Research Areas

Jurisdictional Boundaries


Table 1 depicts many different areas of functionality that Higher Education Institutions and Municipalities can use a GIS Analyst for to gather operational intelligence.



GIS use in a municipal setting has expanded to all departments involved in running a city. The initial and still more common use of GIS is in the area of public services, that is, sanitary sewer and water systems, road networks, buses and trucks routing, for different services that the cities offer, from school bus routes to recycling pick up routes. Over the last few years the use of GIS in the municipal settings have expanded to areas of Traffic Control and Public Safety including Law Enforcement, in areas of Crime or Intelligence Analysis and / or Home Land Security.

In the area of Home Land Security it is necessary to emphasize the importance of having accurate information on infrastructure and its vulnerabilities, on resources and their allocation, and the place in the network of the different players, when an emergency occurs, for instance, having clear evacuation routes, for the police, fire or health departments, which should include the city and their surrounding neighbors, as well as maintaining accurate information on the different partnerships between the public and private sectors.

Higher Education Institutions

GIS can be used for several purposes at higher education institutions. All institutions both public and private for instance have requirements to report specific facility usage accurately to the federal government if the institutions are receiving federal funding for contracts and grants. By having floor plans in GIS the institution can accurately account for square footage used for such research endeavors. This also allows for police and security forces to use GIS information to accurately locate critical facilities of operation for institutions that can have sensitive date, controlled substances, expensive research or educational equipment, administrators’ offices that could be prone to assault and student resident housing. By having information on where such facilities exist, police and security forces can adjust their patrols to keep a strong presence in certain areas. GIS can also be used to determine where crimes are occurring in order for security forces to adjust their manpower according to where certain crimes are taking place if a pattern exists. Institutions of higher learning frequently have campuses that have multiple locations and open access. Therefore gathering information on where crimes are occurring would allow security forces and resources to be deployed to reduce or prevent such acts from occurring.



Accurate information on infrastructure and its vulnerabilities will improve planning capabilities and decision support when an emergency emerges. Maintaining precise information on where resources are, and a plan on how they can be allocated is crucial for first responders in an emergency. Planning, training, improving and managing personnel as well as resources are the capabilities that GIS can provide to municipalities. The task of protecting citizens as well as infrastructure is manageable through the use of Geographic Information Systems.

Higher Education Institutions

Universities have a large amount of space that needs to be accounted for state and federal reports. At The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD), floor plans are input into GIS. This allows for an accurate account of square footage for a variety of reasons and gives the university an accurate position on buildings and rooms for the university. Putting the floor plans into GIS allows for a base of information to be used for a variety of purposes. At UTD a system called the Logistical Tracking System (LTSÓ1) has been developed to not only account for square footage but also tie security infrastructure and other information to the floor plans. Information entered into LTS has to be tied to a valid location that will allow for police, security and emergency personnel to locate items of inventory (or determine if items are missing from inventory), create valid evacuation plans for personnel assigned to certain areas, integrate IP addressable surveillance cameras to locations, hazardous materials (HAZMAT) inventory and other infrastructure information. Currently HAZMAT items are bar coded and then tracked in LTS by location that is dictated by the GIS floor plans. By having information tied to location in GIS, police and security forces can be deployed to critical areas of operation. By having the university’s infrastructure mapped down by GIS, emergency response teams can also gather information on where critical electrical, water, gas or telecommunication lines are located for either security issues or for emergency response purposes. At UTD GIS was also used to create a map of jurisdictional powers for the university police department. UTD has vacant land that surrounds some of the campus and the City of Richardson Police Department has jurisdictional authority in the areas surrounding the campus. So the map was created in order to assist the university police determine what land their jurisdictional powers had authority to enforce legal statutes. In addition UTD is currently testing wireless access to LTS for security and emergency personnel that have access to PDA’s, Pocket PC’s or Tablet PC’s.

Table 2. Logistical Tracking System at the University of Texas at Dallas

Controller's Office Menu---Property Administration Menu---Physical Plant---

Student Residence---Log Out---Room Equipment Menu---Human Resources Menu---

Security Systems---Telecommunications---Utility Costs---Room Remodeling Projects---

Emergency Management System---Room Survey---System Administration---

Manufacturer Codes---Shipping and Receiving---


Table 2 shows the LTS that utilize GIS shapefiles through ArcSDE.


In summary GIS can be utilized for a variety of security, emergency and operational situations for a variety of public organizations. The main two main obstacles for universities and municipalities using GIS is finding qualified personnel that have the necessary skills to provide effective data to organizations and the costs of operating GIS due to the licensing fees through ESRI. In addition several municipalities and universities already use CAD systems and have investments in personnel that are already trained to use CAD. However the ability of GIS to process and map large amounts of data supplements CAD usage and provides organization another tool in assisting safety and security personnel in providing security or first responder services. Intelligence gathered from GIS can be used to better secure public buildings and infrastructure. In addition strategic alliances between public and private organizations provide a better ground for emergency management, security and administrative operations. This combination of private and public entities can better serve the citizenry at large through the use of GIS to locate and secure a variety of assets and infrastructure, at any geographical level.

References and Further Reading

1 LTS has a copyright that is held by The University, Dr. Nicolas Valcik, Danald Lee,
Dr. Patricia Huesca-Dorantes and Tarang Sethia. Three research assistants provided
additional programming support for LTS: Ajeet Singh, Rajesh Ahuja, Mohit Nagrath, Priyankar Datta, and Shalu Agrawal.

Brainard, Jeffery, 2005. “Federal Agencies Issue Final Rules on Safeguarding Academic Research on Dangerous Microbes”, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Daily News 3/23/2005.

Campbell, Kenneth D., 2002. "MIT panel urges off-campus sites for classified research; reaffirms openness of MIT campus", MIT News, June 12, 2002.

Fickes, Michael, 2004. “Opportunistic Security: How to build a campus security strategy on top of existing security technology.” College Planning and Management. Volume 7 Issue 11, November 2004. Peter Li Education Group, Dayton, Ohio.

Grayson, Katherine, 2005. “Campus Technology Innovations”, Campus Technology. August 2005, Volume 18 no. 12, Chatsworth, CA.

Purpura, Philip P., 1989. Modern Security and Loss Prevention Management. ISBN: 0-409-90036-2, Butterworth Publishers, Stoneham, Massachusetts.

Syllabus, 2004. A Balancing Act?: Openness and Security on Campus. April 2004, Volume 17, No. 9, Syllabus Press, Los Altos, California.

No comments: