Jun 23, 2006 (12:06 PM EDT)
New York City Taps Mapping Software To Fight Domestic Violence

Read the Original Article at InformationWeek

New York City's Domestic Violence Hotline receives more than 147,000 calls per year, and the city's police department responds daily to more than 600 domestic violence incidents. Helping victims of domestic violence is a challenge because victims are often reluctant to open up to health care workers or law enforcement about their situation, and when they do, language barriers can complicate the dialogue.

The New York City Mayor's Office to Combat Domestic Violence is looking to break through these barriers with an advertising campaign starting Monday throughout the city's bus shelters, subways, and news publications to promote awareness of domestic violence. Since the campaign is bilingual and aimed at areas more prone to domestic violence, the office is relying on mapping software to spread its message efficiently.

The campaign is an extension of the mapping technology the office has been using since last year, when it implemented MapInfo's Windows-based MapInfo Professional mapping application to better visualize relationships between data and geography. The office is also using MapInfo's MapMarker tool for mapping and analyzing data, which adds geographic coordinates to records in the office's database.

The Office to Combat Domestic Violence combines health care and law enforcement data with city maps to determine where the city's resources should be allocated. "Health care officials wanted to know how to better intervene in a culturally competent manner," says Tracy Weber, the office's grants director and interagency coordinator.

By knowing where domestic violence victims live and what languages they speak, health care workers and law enforcement can do a better job of communicating with domestic violence victims and preventing future incidents. "I've been able to import all sorts of city-based data into MapInfo, including road maps, English proficiency ratings, and homicide rates and overlay that over a map of the city," Weber says. From there, patterns and strategies begin to emerge. "Rather than delivering a list of ZIP codes where domestic violence is most prevalent, we can show this visually. We can also better monitor the domestic violence prevention programs that are running or will launch."

MapInfo in 2004 gave the office $13,000 worth of mapping software as part of its e-government program. Weber's "project was a model that other organizations might be able to follow," says Nathan Lobban, MapInfo's state and local government account manager.

Weber joined the Office to Combat Domestic Violence after working at Columbia University on a project that mapped the use of Agent Orange in the Vietnam War against U.S. troop movements through that country at the time. Whereas Columbia's project used MapInfo software as part of an epidemiology study, New York is using the technology to improve the health care and well-being of the city's women.

New York City has a track record of putting mapping technology to good use. When the police department last July opened its $11 million Real Time Crime Center in lower Manhattan, MapInfo's satellite imaging and mapping software was an important tool offered to the center's analysts to study crime patterns and locations.

Weber's work with the Office to Combat Domestic Violence is far from done. The office now is looking for new ways to use the mapping technology. "We have a fatality review coordinator who analyzes domestic violence cases in which people have been killed, and I'm looking into how mapping could be useful to that project," she says.