Rutgers Criminal Justice Professor’s Free GIS Textbook Download Helps Crime Fighting and Public Safety Practitioners Worldwide

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(Newark, NJ) – Shortly after Joel M. Caplan began his professorship at the School of Criminal Justice at Rutgers University in Newark two years ago, the absence of a much-needed tool for one of his courses became very apparent. Caplan teaches a graduate class entitled Crime Mapping and GIS for Public Safety.

GIS is an acronym for geographic information system, an integration of hardware, software and data that captures, manages, analyzes and displays all forms of geographically-referenced information. With GIS, a person can understand and visualize data in various ways that reveal relationships, patterns, and trends.

GIS technology provides great advantages for proactive policing and informed responses. With GIS-compiled data and information, law enforcement and public safety officials can analyze crimes to detect emerging patterns, examine the best locations to conduct surveillance for a recent series of crimes, establish a perimeter for a crime scene or natural disaster, target repeat 911 call locations, or exchange information with neighboring jurisdictions or a jurisdiction across the globe.

“In my GIS course, students learn how to map and analyze crime and public safety data as well as make maps and manage spatial information. Because a comprehensive and affordable color textbook on the topic did not exist, I decided to write one myself and offer it free to everyone, whether students of my class or not, via internet downloads,” explains Caplan.

In less than four months of its public posting, more than 1,000 individuals in more than 44 countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, India and Norway, have downloaded Caplan’s textbook, GIS for Public Safety: An Annotated Guide to ArcGIS Tools and Procedures. Students, practitioners and researchers in public safety, criminal justice, cartography and general geography have availed themselves of this free resource. Many of the end users are affiliated with research universities and institutions and various federal, state and local government departments and agencies.

One beneficiary of the free download, Dr. Nandan Nandakumar, was so impressed with the content of GIS for Public Safety he contacted Caplan by email to express his gratitude and convey his success with the book. Nandakumar is the head of the Department of Geography at Government College Kariavattom in Kerala, India, and teaches digital cartography to underprivileged students.

Touched by the circumstances of Nandakumar’s students, Caplan has arranged for ESRI, the developer of the ArcGIS software, to donate nearly one dozen assorted GIS books to Nandakumar’s classroom. Caplan also will contribute a courtesy hard copy of his book. And not to be outdone, the Student Government Association at the Rutgers School of Criminal Justice in Newark will use money from a recent fundraiser to purchase a handheld GIS device to be included among the other donated items.

“When I receive success stories from people like Nandan, I know making my textbook available to all at no cost was the right decision,” remarks Caplan. A resident of Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey, Caplan received his doctoral degree in social welfare policy from the University of Pennsylvania in 2008, his master’s degree in criminal justice from the Rutgers School of Criminal Justice in Newark in 2004, and his bachelor’s degree in law and justice from The College of New Jersey in 2003.

The link to download GIS for Public Safety, which now includes instructor materials, is